- Local media and the defense lawyer also said that the court had also overturned the convictions of the other three co-accused.
- Daniel Pearl, who was the Wall Street Journal’s South Asia correspondent, was kidnapped in Karachi in January, 2002.
- The Pearl Project at Georgetown University released a report in 2011 that Pakistan convicted the wrong men.
A court in Pakistan has overturned a death sentence for a British terrorist who was convicted of killing a Wall Street Journal reporter. Omar Saeed Sheikh was sentenced to death in 2002 for the abduction and murder of the journalist Daniel Pearl. An appeal was filed after his conviction but has taken 18 years to be heard by the High Court.
“The court has commuted Omar’s death sentence to a seven year sentence,” his lawyer, Khawaja Naveed said Wednesday. The court found the accused guilty of the lesser charge of kidnapping, and sentenced him to seven years in jail. “The murder charges were not proven, so he has been given seven years for the kidnapping,” Naveed said. “Omar has already served eighteen years, so his release orders will be issued sometime today. He will be out in a few days,” he added.
The local media and the defense lawyer also said that the court had also overturned the convictions of the other three co-accused. Omar’s accomplices, Sheikh Adil, Fahad Naseem, and Salman Saquib had been sentenced to life. Omar Sheikh, who dropped out of college, was a longtime extremist who apparently experienced a religious awakening while studying at the London School of Economics. Omar, who hails from Wanstead, East London, was born in 1973.
The journalist, Pearl, who was the Wall Street Journal’s South Asia correspondent, was kidnapped in Karachi in January, 2002. He had been investigating the links between a British citizen, attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid, and al-Qaeda. According to a testimony during Omar’s trial in 2002, he met Pearl after learning that there was a religious leader he wanted to interview. He promised to arrange for an introduction.
The two had built a relationship as they discussed the concerns of their wives who were were pregnant at that time. The court findings revealed that Omar later called the journalist to Karachi, so as to meet the cleric. Upon arrival in Karachi, however, Pearl was bundled into a car and driven to a compound in the outskirts of town. He was held hostage, and days later, beheaded.
Pearl’s son, Adam, was born in May 2002. It is alleged that before the journalist’s murder, he was made to say that he was a Jew. His killers then slit his throat and beheaded him on camera. The video later sent to the American embassy.
The Pearl Project at Georgetown University released a report in 2011, after an investigation into Pearl’s murder, that claimed that the court convicted the wrong men. The investigation, led by Pearl’s friend and former Wall Street Journal colleague, claimed that Pearl was murdered by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, commonly known as KSM.
KSM was arrested in 2003, and is being held at Guatantanamo Bay. It is alleged that after being subjected repeatedly to waterboarding (a torturous interrogation technique that has since been banned by the US government), Mohammed confessed to killing the journalist.