Sat. Feb 27th, 2021

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the release of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the mastermind of the kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl by al Qaeda and Pakistani Islamic terrorists.

Pakistan’s government on Friday appealed to the court to review its decision to absolve the British-born Islamist and three others convicted in the case a day after they were acquitted by a panel of three judges.

The US also expressed concern over the acquittal of Sheikh, and US top diplomat Antony Blinken repeated the call for accountability on Friday in his first phone call with Pakistan’s foreign minister.

The review panel, headed by Justice Omar Ata Bandyal, stood by the decision to acquit, and recommended that Sheikh be taken to the “rest house” before he was fully released.

“He should be taken to a comfortable residential environment like a rest house, where he can lead a normal life,” the judge said.

As the government arranges over the next two days, Sheikh will be kept in a comfortable environment in the jail with permission to see his family, the court said.

“It is not a complete freedom. It is a step towards freedom,” the prisoner’s father, Saeed Sheikh, told Reuters television.

The terms of Sheikh’s release will become clear when a written order is made public.

On assignment for the Wall Street Journal in the months following the Al Qaeda 9/11 attacks on the United States, Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi and later beheaded. Al Qaeda’s number three leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed to killing Pearl, and Sheikh, an alumnus of the London School of Economics, was instrumental in trapping the journalist.

(Reporting by Asif Shehzad; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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