The Pakistani government appealed the decision to release Ahmad Omar Seed Sheikh, who was accused of beheading Daniel Pearl, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, to its Supreme Court Friday. Sheikh and three others were originally convicted of the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Pearl, but their sentences were commuted in April 2020.
Friday’s appeal follows the court’s Thursday order to release Sheikh. Unless Sheikh must be available for another case, his release could be within a few days. The appeal seeks to overturn the acquittal and reinstate Sheikh’s death penalty ruling. The Thursday order came from a three-judge panel’s 2-1 decision.
Under the original conviction, Sheikh was sentenced to the death penalty. He has been imprisoned since 2002. While the High Court of Sindh province found that Sheikh was involved in the kidnapping of Pearl, the court in 2020 found that the murder charge was unproven.
Pearl was investigating Islamic militants following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US before he was kidnapped. Sheikh’s conviction of kidnapping stemmed from his luring of Pearl to a meeting Pearl thought was with an informant.
US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken issued a press release Thursday expressing concern over the court’s release order. Blinken stated that: “The court’s decision is an affront to terrorism victims everywhere, including in Pakistan. The United States recognizes past Pakistani actions to hold Omar Sheikh accountable and notes that Sheikh currently remains detained under Pakistani law.”
Blinken concluded the press release by stating that the US is prepared to prosecute Sheikh “for his horrific crimes against an American citizen.”