A court in Pakistan on Thursday commuted the death sentence of the man accused of beheading Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh had been arrested and sentenced to death for orchestrating the kidnapping and murder of Pearl. Pearl had been in Pakistan following a story about “shoe bomber” Richard Reid and was on his way to what he thought was a meeting with an informant when he was kidnapped. His execution was video-taped as part of a demand by the killers for the release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.
Sheikh appealed the death sentence, and a two-judge panel of the High Court of Sindh province, finding that murder charges against Sheikh were unproven, issued the order commuting the sentence. His role in Pearl’s kidnapping was not in dispute, and the panel issued a seven-year prison sentence for that charge. Sheikh has already spent 18 years in prison, and his defense lawyer, Khawaja Naveed, expects he will be released in a few days. Three other men who were serving life sentences in connection with the murder were also acquitted by the panel.
Faiz Shah, provincial prosecutor general, said that once the prosecutor’s office has gone through the court’s order, “we will probably file an appeal.”