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January 28, 2021 2:03 pm

Condemnations Pour in After Pakistani Court Orders Release of Killer of Slain Journalist Daniel Pearl

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh (c) is surrounded by armed police as he leaves a court in Karachi, Pakistan, March 29, 2002. Photo: Reuters / Zahid Hussein.

Jewish leaders and former colleagues and friends of the murdered US journalist Daniel Pearl sharply condemned the Thursday decision by Pakistan’s supreme court to approve the release of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the Islamist militant convicted of the 2002 killing.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, called the decision “a travesty of justice and an insult to Pearl’s family” on Twitter.

“We strongly urge US officials to begin legal efforts to bring his killer to justice.”

The British-born Sheikh was sentenced to death in 2002 for his role in the beheading of the Jewish journalist Pearl, who was kidnapped while in Pakistan investigating Al-Qaeda for the Wall Street Journal. 

In April, Sheikh was acquitted along with three other men by a regional court, and on Thursday the country’s high court upheld that ruling and dismissed appeals from the Pearl family and the Pakistani government. The timing of any impending release was not yet known, and the US State Department asked Pakistan — which maintains custody over Sheikh — to review its legal options and “ensure justice is served.”

“The United States is deeply concerned by the Pakistani Supreme Court’s decision to acquit those involved in Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and murder and any proposed action to release them,” it said in a statement. “We take note of the Attorney General’s statement that he intends to seek review and recall of the decision. We are also prepared to prosecute Sheikh in the United States for his horrific crimes against an American citizen. We are committed to securing justice for Daniel Pearl’s family and holding terrorists accountable.”

In a statement, Pearl’s parents Ruth and Judea said the family was in “complete shock” at the decision, which they said “puts in danger journalists everywhere and the people of Pakistan.”

“We urge the US government to take all necessary actions under the law to correct this injustice. We also hope that the Pakistani authorities will take all necessary steps to rectify this travesty of justice. No amount of injustice will defeat our resolve to fight for justice for Daniel Pearl,” they said.

The American Jewish Committee reacted, saying, “The release of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, an Islamist convicted in the kidnapping and murder of American Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl, is an unfathomable affront to justice and human decency. This sends a dangerous signal to extremists in Pakistan, and beyond.”

Condemnations also came in from peers of Pearl, who was serving as the Wall Street Journal’s South Asia bureau chief when he was killed.

“This is an infuriating and unjust decision. We’ll continue to support efforts to hold to account those responsible for the brutal murder of Danny,” said the Journal’s editor in chief, Matt Murray, to the paper.

“Shame on Pakistan for this,” tweeted John Reed, South-East Asia correspondent for the Financial Times.

“Daniel Pearl’s killing was an abomination, and anyone who played a role in it should be held accountable,” said National Press Club President Lisa Matthews in a statement. “Pakistan’s government should extradite Pearl’s alleged kidnappers to the United States for trial.”

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