The New York Post reports that a British-born man sentenced to death for kidnapping and beheading Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl could walk free.
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was found guilty of masterminding Pearl’s murder, and sentenced to death in 2002. He has been in jail ever since awaiting the outcome of a series of appeals and legal arguments. His death sentence was overturned in April after Pakistani prosecutors failed to prove he was the killer, The Guardian reported at the time.
“The court has commuted Omar’s death sentence to a seven-year sentence. The murder charges were not proven, so he was given seven years for the kidnapping. Omar has already served 18 years, so his release orders will be issued sometime today. He will be out in a few days,” defense lawyer Khawaja Naveed told Reuters back in April, according to The Guardian.
Pearl’s family, the U.S. Government and media rights groups were outraged over the decision and appeals were filed to reverse the ruling, the outlet reported.
In response, Saeed Sheikh was instead held on a 90-day detention order, expiring Thursday, under a public ordinance that allows defendants to be held in custody longer if their release could lead to violence and chaos, the outlet reported.
However, Pakistan’s supreme court refused a government request to suspend the lower court’s decision to release Saeed Sheikh on Monday and refused to promptly hear an appeal on the ruling, which is now scheduled for Sept. 25, the outlet said.
Pakistan’s prosecutor, Faiz Shah, declined to say whether they will seek an order extending Saeed Sheikh’s detention, meaning the man could be walking free as early as Thursday, the outlet reported.
“The prosecution’s cases are won or lost not on the basis of emotion, they are won or lost on the basis of evidence and in this case the prosecution did a woeful job,” Mahmood Sheikh, Saeed Sheikh’s lawyer, no relation, told The Guardian.
“If Daniel Pearl’s parents have any grievance or complaint it should be against the Pakistani authorities for the prosecution’s failings.”
In January 2002, Pearl was an intrepid journalist investigating Islamic militants in Karachi when he was kidnapped by Saeed Sheikh. He was eventually beheaded in a filmed execution that was shared around the world, according to The New York Post.