US expresses ‘deep concern’ over Pak court’s order to release accused in Daniel Pearl case


PTI, Dec 25, 2020, 5:45 PM IST

Credit: AP photo/Zia Mazhar

Washington: The US on Friday expressed ”deep concern” over a Pakistani court’s order to release British-born al-Qaeda leader Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three aides, who were convicted and sentenced in the abduction and murder case of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

In a surprise move, a two-judge bench of the Sindh High Court on Thursday directed security agencies not to keep Sheikh and other accused under ”any sort of detention” and declared all notifications of the Sindh government related to their detention ”null and void”.

”We are deeply concerned by the reports of the December 24 ruling of Sindh High Court to release multiple terrorists responsible for the murder of Daniel Pearl. We have been assured that the accused have not been released at this time,” the US State Department said in a tweet.

It said that the US will continue to monitor any developments in the case and will continue to support the Pearl family ”through this extremely difficult process” while honouring the legacy of Pearl as a ”courageous journalist”.

The US has been mounting pressure on Pakistan, demanding justice for Pearl. Meanwhile, Ruth and Judea Pearl – the parents of Pearl – condemned the decision made by the Sindh High court and expressed full confidence in the Supreme Court of Pakistan to provide justice for their son and reinforce the paramount of the freedom of the press, the Express Tribune reported.

”We refuse to believe that the Pakistani government and the Pakistani people will let such a travesty of justice tarnish the image and legacy of Pakistan,” they said in a statement. In April, a two-judge Sindh High Court bench commuted the death sentence of 46-year-old Sheikh to seven years imprisonment. The court also acquitted his three aides who were serving life terms in the case – almost two decades after they were found guilty and jailed.

However, the Sindh government refused to release them and kept them in detention under the Maintenance of Public Order. Their continuous detention was challenged in the Sindh High Court, which ordered their release.

Pearl, the 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, was abducted and beheaded while he was in Pakistan investigating a story in 2002 on the links between the country’s powerful spy agency ISI and al-Qaeda. A three-judge apex court bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam is hearing the appeal by the Sindh government and the family of the slain journalist against the acquittal of Sheikh.

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