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US demands justice for slain journalist Daniel Pearl from Pakistan

The US had earlier criticised the Sindh High Court for ‘overturning the death sentence of the Al Qaida leader,’ debunking the verdict as an ‘affront’ to the victims of terrorism everywhere.

SNS | New Delhi |

The United States (US) has again taken a jab at Pakistan by seeking justice for slain American journalist Daniel Pearl, days after his family filed an appeal before the Supreme Court against a verdict by a court in Sindh province which acquitted the prime accused and British-born top Al-Qaeda leader Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three others in the case.

The US had earlier criticised the Sindh High Court for “overturning the death sentence of the Al Qaida leader,” debunking the verdict as an “affront” to the victims of terrorism everywhere.

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 alleged links between the country’s powerful spy agency ISI and Al-Qaeda.

Earlier, on April 2, a two-judge Sindh High Court bench overturned the death sentence of 46-year-old al-Qaeda leader Sheikh, who was convicted in the abduction and murder of Pearl in 2002. He has been in jail for the past 18 years.

On the appeal filed by his three aides, Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil serving life sentences in the case, the bench announced the verdict on the appeals filed by the four convicts 18 years ago, the Pakistan court also acquitted them.

“On the eve of World Press Freedom Day, we honour the legacy of journalist Daniel Pearl. We appreciate the Govt of Pakistan’s 4/22 appeal to reinstate guilty verdicts against Daniel’s murderers, now buttressed by the filing of the Pearl family’s appeal before the Supreme Court,” State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Alice Wells tweeted on Sunday.

Pakistan’s Sindh government on April 22, challenged in the Supreme Court the provincial high court’s verdict that acquitted Sheikh and three others in the abduction and murder of Pearl, while on April 28, the government asked for an early hearing.

On May 2, the parents of Pearl filed an appeal to Pakistan’s Supreme Court seeking reversal of the Sindh High Court verdict that overturned convictions of four men in their son’s kidnapping and murder case.

Two criminal petitions have been filed by renowned lawyer Faisal Siddiqi on behalf of the parents – Ruth Pearl and Judie Pearl – against the acquittal and release of the four accused.

“The decision by the Sindh High Court to free the men in the murder of Daniel Pearl is a complete miscarriage of justice…,” the Pearl family lawyer said.

“The Sindh High Court has failed to note that this was a brutal murder as a result of international terrorism and the principle of the standard of proof, as well as the benefit of doubt in cases of international terrorism, has to be applied keeping in the context that the nature and type of evidence available in such terrorism cases cannot be equated with cases involving non-terrorism crimes,” read the petition.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also exerted pressure on Pakistan by demanding justice for Pearl, last month.

“The United States will not forget Daniel Pearl. We continue to honour his legacy as a courageous journalist and demand justice for his brutal murder,” tweeted Pompeo on April 3.

Pearl’s murder took place three years after Sheikh, along with Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, was released by India in 1999 and given safe passage to Afghanistan in exchange for the nearly 150 passengers of hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814. He was serving a prison term in India for kidnappings of Western tourists in the country.