Pakistan court orders release of accused in Daniel Pearl killing

A provincial court in Pakistan has ordered the release of a British-born Pakistani man charged over the 2002 murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the key suspect in Pearl’s killing, was acquitted of murder charges earlier this year but has been held while Pearl’s family appeals the acquittal.

On Thursday, the Sindh High Court’s release order overturns a decision by the same court with his lawyer, Mehmood Sheikh, calling for his client’s immediate release.

“The detention order is struck down,” said Faisal Siddiqi, the Pearl family’s lawyer, adding that Sheikh will be freed until the appeal is completed but will be returned to prison if the family is successful in overturning the acquittal.

Sheikh was sentenced to death and three others were sentenced to life in prison for their role in the plot. But in April, he was acquitted along with three others, a move that stunned the United States.

The acquittal is now being appealed separately by both the government and Pearl’s family.

The government has opposed Sheikh’s release, saying it would endanger the public.

The Supreme Court will resume its hearing on January 5.

The 38-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter from Encino, California was abducted on January 23, 2002.

Sheikh was convicted of helping lure Pearl to a meeting in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi, in which he was kidnapped.

Pearl had been investigating the link between Pakistani fighters 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.

A gruesome video of Pearl’s beheading was sent to the US consulate.

In Sheikh’s original trial, emails between Sheikh and Pearl presented in court showed Sheikh gained Pearl’s confidence sharing their experiences as both waited for the birth of their first child.

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