Pakistan court overturns death sentence for Daniel Pearl

KARACHI: A Pakistani court has commuted the death sentence of the main person accused in the 2002 kidnapping and murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl , and acquitted three co-defendants in the matter, two lawyers told Reuters on Thursday.

At least four people were convicted in connection with Pearl's murder, including the British-born Pearl, who was sentenced to death in 2002 for planning the murder. He has been in prison for 18 years awaiting the outcome of an appeal.

The court has commuted Omar's death sentence to a seven-year sentence, Khawaja Naveed, the defense attorney, told Reuters by telephone. The murder charges were unproven, which has given seven years for the kidnapping.

Omar has already turned 18, so his release orders will be issued sometime today. It will be out in a few days, Naveed said.

A bank of two members of the Sindh Province High Court issued the order in the city of Karachi on Thursday, Naveed said, adding that the other three, who had been serving life sentences in relation to the case, had been acquitted.

Pearl was investigating Islamist militants in Karachi after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States when she was kidnapped in January 2002.

A video emerged a few weeks after his murder. He was beheaded.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks, was also allegedly involved in Pearl's murder.

A Sindh prosecutor said he would consider appealing against the court's decision.

We will review the court order once it is issued, we will probably file an appeal, Faiz Shah, the province's attorney general, told Reuters by telephone.


Another lawyer who was not involved in the case told Reuters that Pakistan would likely have to release all the accused while any appeal was filed.

The prosecution cannot stop their release in this case, unless they file a provisional order from the Supreme Court, a lawyer for the Sindh High Court said, adding that the government could try to keep them in custody by using a law related to the maintenance of public order.

They cannot legally stop his release in this particular case, Farooq said.

The United States Embassy in Islamabad did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CNN reported in 2002 that the United States had attempted to extradite Sheikh after his arrest in connection with Pearl's murder.

Sheikh was born in Great Britain and enjoyed a privileged education before studying at the London School of Economics .

He was arrested in India in the 1990s for his involvement in the kidnapping of western tourists in 1994 in support of Muslim separatists fighting against Indian security forces in the disputed Kashmir region.

He was one of three men released from an Indian prison after militants hijacked an Indian plane in late 1999 and took him to Afghanistan, where the Taliban regime he was ruling at the time helped negotiate an exchange.

Later, Indian police linked Sheikh to the September 11 attacks on the United States, accusing him of participating in the transfer of $ 100,000 to Mohammad Atta, one of the militants who transported planes to the New York World Trade Center.