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Pakistani Supreme Court accepts appeal from slain American Daniel Pearl’s family

U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl (David/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has accepted an appeal by the family of slain American journalist Daniel Pearl challenging the acquittal of a British-born Pakistani man accused of murdering the Wall Street Journal reporter in 2002.

The Supreme Court said on September 28 that it will begin hearing next week the appeal over a lower court’s acquittal in April of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who had been on death row since his conviction in 2002 over Pearl’s killing.

The High Court of Sindh Province reduced Sheikh’s sentence to seven years in prison for kidnapping, in what Washington said was an “affront to victims of terrorism.”

Sheikh and three other men accused of involvement in Pearl’s kidnapping and murder have remained in detention as the Pakistani government appeals to the Supreme Court to have the sentences reinstated.

Ahead of the hearing scheduled for September 28, the Pearl family said that releasing Sheikh would encourage militants around the world.

“This would be an invitation and encouragement to extreme elements all over the globe to feel free to initiate acts of terrorism, and play games with human life,” said Judea Pearl, the journalist’s father. “It would be a message of impunity.”

Pearl, 38, was The Wall Street Journal’s South Asia bureau chief when he was abducted and beheaded in Karachi in 2002 while researching a story about Islamist militants.

A video showing Pearl’s decapitation was delivered to the U.S. consulate in Karachi nearly a month later.

Sheikh, a former student at the London School of Economics, was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court, while three other defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment.

In January 2011, a report released by the Pearl Project, an investigative journalism team at Georgetown University in Washington, claimed that the wrong men were convicted for Pearl’s murder.

The investigation claimed the reporter was murdered by Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Muhammad was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and is being held in the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.