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regular-article-logo Monday, 24 June 2024

Acquittal of Pearl killers irk US

Allow us to prosecute WSJ scribe’s murderers, urges White House

PTI Washington Published 30.01.21, 01:14 AM
Daniel Pearl

Daniel Pearl File Picture

Voicing outrage over the acquittal of those involved in the brutal murder of Daniel Pearl in 2002, the White House has asked Pakistan to speedily review its legal options, including allowing the US to prosecute al Qaida terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and other suspects to secure justice for the American journalist’s family.

Pearl, the 38-year-old South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, was in Pakistan to report on Islamist militant networks in the country and on the links between the ISI and al Qaida after the September 11, 2001, terror strikes.

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He was kidnapped in Karachi, the capital of Sindh, and beheaded days later.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed appeals against the acquittal of British-born Sheikh and ordered his release.

The judgment was denounced by the American journalist’s family as “a complete travesty of justice”.

The Sindh government on Friday filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against the acquittal of Sheikh and his three accomplices.

The review was filed in the Supreme Court after its appeal against the acquittal verdict of the Sindh High Court was dismissed by the top court on Thursday.

The apex court cleared Sheikh and his three Pakistani accomplices in the case of all the charges and ordered that Sheikh and others be immediately freed from jail.

Hours after the ruling, White House press secretary Jen Psaki underlined the new Biden administration’s commitment to secure justice for Pearl’s family.

Psaki, during her daily news conference on Thursday, said: “The United States is outraged by the Pakistani Supreme Court’s decision to affirm the acquittals of those responsible for Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and brutal murder which shocked the world’s conscience in 2002”.

“This decision to exonerate and release Sheikh and the other suspects is an affront to terrorism victims everywhere, including in Pakistan. We recognise past Pakistani actions to try to hold Mr Pearl’s murderers accountable, and we do note that as of right now, Omar Sheikh remains in detention in Pakistan under national security authorities.

“But we call on the Pakistani government to expeditiously review its legal options, including allowing the United States to prosecute for the brutal murder of an American citizen and journalist,” Psaki said in response to a question on Pakistani apex court’s decision.

Sheikh and his three aides — Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib — were convicted and sentenced in the abduction and murder case of Pearl in Karachi in 2002.

The US, she said, is committed to securing justice for Pearl’s family and holding terrorists anywhere accountable for their heinous crimes.

Reacting to the acquittal, US secretary of state Tony Blinken, in a strongly worded statement, urged Pakistan to explore all legal options to ensure that Pearl’s killers are brought to justice.

“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,” he said.

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