US plans to prosecute Omar, shows concern with Pakistan

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WASHINGTON: Expressing concern over the acquittal in the Daniel Pearl murder cases, the US Justice Department on Thursday said Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh must not be permitted to evade justice for his role in the abduction and murder of the American citizen.

US journalist Daniel Pearl (murdered in Pakistan)

“We are deeply concerned by the Pakistani Supreme Court’s ruling affirming the acquittal of individuals convicted by a Pakistani trial court for the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl. Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh has long been indicted in the United States and must be held accountable for his crimes,” Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson said, as quoted by the Justice Department.

“He must not be permitted to evade justice for his charged role in Daniel Pearl’s abduction and murder,” he added.

Slamming the Pakistani court’s decision to acquit Omar Sheikh, State Secretary Antony Blinken said that Washington is ready to prosecute Sheikh in the United States for his horrific crimes against an American citizen.

“We expect the Pakistani government to expeditiously review its legal options to ensure justice is served. We are also prepared to prosecute Sheikh in the United States for his horrific crimes against an American citizen,” US State Department release quoted Blinken.

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh in police custody

“Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh was indicted in the United States in 2002 for hostage-taking and conspiracy to commit hostage-taking, resulting in the murder of Pearl, the South Asia Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal, as well as the 1994 kidnapping of another United States citizen in India,” the statement added.

Early today, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the US is outraged with Omar Saeed Sheikh’s acquittal. “The United States is outraged by the Pakistani Supreme Court’s decision to affirm the acquittals of those responsible for Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and brutal murder, which shocked the world’s conscience in 2002,” Psaki told reporters.

US Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson

She said that this decision to exonerate and release, Sheikh and the other suspects and enough is an affront to terrorism victims everywhere, including in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the release of the man convicted in 2002 of orchestrating the abduction and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl after effectively clearing him of wrongdoing in the case.

A three-judge panel upheld a lower-court ruling that overturned terrorism and murder convictions for Omar Sheikh, who has spent more than 18 years in prison for the crimes.

The judges also overturned a third conviction, for kidnapping. The court said it would explain its reasoning at a later date. The press Secretary responded to the Supreme court order.

Sindh Government

The provincial government of Sindh has announced that it will file a review petition against Pakistan Supreme Court’s decision to acquit terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Shiekh, who is a prime convict in the kidnapping and brutal murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl.

In a statement following the verdict, Sindh information minister Nasir Hussain Shah on Thursday said that the provincial government “has decided to go for a review on the orders of the Supreme Court”, Geo News reported.

“Omar Sheikh has admitted his involvement in the Daniel Pearl murder case,” he added.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Attorney-General for Pakistan, Khalid Jawed Khan, said that the federal government is in contact with the Sindh government over the matter.

Statement released by US Department of Justice on Daniel Pearl case

He acknowledged that a review petition will be filed, asking the Supreme Court to rescind the release orders of Sheikh and his associates.

“The federal government will provide the provincial government with every possible legal assistance in the matter,” the spokesperson added.

Yesterday, the Pakistan Supreme Court dismissed the Sindh government’s appeal against the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) decision to overturn the conviction of Sheikh for killing the journalist. 

In 2002, Pearl, the 38-year-old journalist of The Wall Street Journal’s South Asia bureau, was abducted and beheaded while he was in Pakistan to investigate a story of terror groups’ links to Al-Qaeda.

In December last year, the SHC directed to release Sheikh, Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib.

The provincial government had then approached the top court against the order of the SHC overturning the conviction of Sheikh.

In April 2020, the SHC had overturned the death sentence of Sheikh and sentenced him to seven years in prison and acquitted three other accused — Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib — who were earlier sentenced to life imprisonment by an anti-terrorism court (ATC).

The accused have been in jail for the last 18 years and ordered the accused to appear as and when the court summons them.

Meanwhile, the United States has reacted sharply on SC’s ruling. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday that the United States is outraged with the Pakistan Supreme Court’s decision to acquit Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s killer Sheikh.

“The United States is outraged by the Pakistani Supreme Court’s decision to affirm the acquittals of those responsible for Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and brutal murder, which shocked the world’s conscience in 2002,” Psaki told reporters. (ANI)