Pakistan Appeals Supreme Court Acquittal In Daniel Pearl Murder Case

On Friday, Pakistan's Sindh provincial government submitted a petition to the country's Supreme Court to review its decision to acquit and free the men convicted of kidnapping and beheading American journalist Daniel Pearl, as reported by Al Jazeera. British national Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three accomplices were acquitted on Thursday, more than 18 years after they were found guilty in 2002 of murdering the Wall Street Journal reporter. Thursday's decision sparked outrage in the United States and caused heightened tension between the courts and Sindh government, which had kept the four men imprisoned through emergency powers.

Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan, in January 2002 while working as the South Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. Officials were given a graphic video of his decapitation by his kidnappers following nearly a month of ransom demands. Sheikh, who had once been a student at the London School of Economics and had a history of kidnapping foreigners, was arrested days after the abduction. He was originally sentenced to death by hanging.

This undated photo shows Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal newspaper reporter kidnapped by Islamic militants in Karachi, Pakistan.
Getty Images

Fiaz Shah, the prosecutor general for the Sindh government, told Agence France-Presse that the review had been submitted in Pakistan's capital of Islamabad and called on the court to recall their order of acquittal.

Thursday's decision by Pakistan's Supreme Court comes after Sheikh was acquitted of murder and saw his conviction reduced to kidnapping, which overturned his death sentence and ordered his release, by a lower court in 2020. The court found that investigators did not follow lawful interrogation procedures and the conviction was made with insufficient evidence, inconsistencies in police accounts, and forced confessions, as reported by CNN.

The Supreme Court upheld the acquittal by a split decision despite a series of petitions, including one by the parents of Pearl. Following the announcement of the acquittal, Pearl's father Judea Pearl called the decision "a crime against humanity, against journalism, against the core of our civilization."

The decision caused outrage in the United States, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki calling it an "affront to terrorism victims everywhere."

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement announcing that the federal government would prosecute Sheikh in the United States if he is released, and called on the Pakistani government to review its legal options. The U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson reiterated the sentiment in a statement announcing the country would take custody of Sheikh.

"He must not be permitted to evade justice for his charged role in Daniel Pearl's abduction and murder," it read.

According to Pakistan's interior ministry, Sheikh and the accomplices remain in custody after the ruling and are barred from leaving the country.