Pakistan court orders release of man jailed over murder of Daniel Pearl

Family of American journalist beheaded in 2002 call Sheikh’s acquittal a ‘travesty’

Pakistan's supreme court has ordered the release of a British-born man convicted and later acquitted over the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.

The court also dismissed an appeal against Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh's acquittal by Mr Pearl's family and the Pakistani government.

Sheikh has been on death row since his conviction for the death of Pearl in 2002. His lawyer said Sheikh “should not have spent one day in jail”.

Lawyer Mehmood A Sheikh said the court also ordered the release of three other Pakistanis who had been sentenced to life in prison for their part in Pearl’s kidnapping and murder.

"Today's decision is a complete travesty of justice and the release of these killers puts in danger journalists everywhere and the people of Pakistan, " the Pearl family said in a statement released by their lawyer, Faisal Siddiqi.

The three-judge supreme court ruled two to one in favour of upholding Sheikh’s acquittal and ordered him released, said Mr Siddiqi.

Washington previously said it would demand Sheikh be extradited to the US to be tried there. There was no immediate reaction from the US embassy to the court order upholding the appeal.

“We urge the US government to take all necessary actions under the law to correct this injustice. We also hope that the Pakistani authorities will take all necessary steps to rectify this travesty of justice,” the Pearl family said.

Mr Siddiqi said the only legal avenue following the court’s decision upholding the acquittal would be to ask for a review of the court decision, but he said the review would be conducted by the same court that upheld the appeal, meaning “in practical terms” there is no further legal route in Pakistan.

Sheikh was convicted of helping lure Pearl to a meeting in Karachi, during which he was kidnapped. He had been investigating the link between Pakistani militants and Richard C Reid, dubbed the "Shoe Bomber" after trying to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes.

Pearl disappeared on January 23rd, and his body was discovered in a shallow grave soon after a gruesome video of his beheading was delivered to the US consulate in Karachi. – AP