ISLAMABAD – The parents of the murdered American journalist Daniel Pearl appealed Saturday to the Supreme Court of Pakistan against a recent low-level court ruling that overturned the sentences of four men accused in the 2002 abduction and murder case.
The special anti-terrorism tribunal in Sindh province, Pakistan, where the crime took place 18 years ago, has sentenced British citizen Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh to death for masterminding the murder of a Wall Street Journal reporter. Three other people were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Last month, an appeals court in the provincial capital, Karachi, overturned the ruling and ordered that Sheikh’s accomplices be released. It also reduced Sheikh’s sentence to seven years in prison for kidnapping alone, which allowed him to be released to serve his sentence.
The Sindh High Court has ruled that there is enough evidence to link the Sheikh with Pearl’s abduction but not his murder.
Saturday’s petition, posted online, asked the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling, noting that Pearl’s parents “were harmed by a court ruling ratified by the Honorable Sindh High Court.”
Lawyer Faisal Siddiqi, confirmed to VOA that he had filed a petition on behalf of Pearl’s family in Karachi’s chamber of the Supreme Court.
The dead journalist’s father tweeted the details of the petition along with an emotional video message. “We fight for justice not only for our son, Daniel Pearl, but for all our good friends in Pakistan, so that they can find out a society free from violence and terror, and raise their children in peace and harmony,” Judea Mutiara said.
The April 2 ruling drew quick criticism from the United States and global outrage, as well as Pakistani groups campaigning for the rights and security of journalists.
The reaction prompted Pakistani authorities to stop the release of the four men, citing “public safety”, a law often used in important cases in Pakistan to buy time for prosecutors to appeal.
A federal interior ministry statement defended the move, saying it “reaffirmed its commitment to follow the legal process under state law to bring terrorists to duty.”
The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) praised Saturday’s decision, saying it “strongly supports” the pursuit of the Pearl family in this case.
“The release of Omar Saeed Sheikh and his accomplices will only add to the threats faced by journalists in Pakistan and deepen Pakistan’s reputation as a haven for terrorists,” Steven Butler, CPJ Asia program coordinator, said.
Pearl, 38 at the time of his murder, visited Pakistan in January 2002 to investigate relations between Islamist militants and the 11 September 2001 planner, a terrorist attack on the United States before he was kidnapped in Karachi and beheaded weeks later.
The beheading of Pearl made headlines around the world and subsequent international protests forced Pakistan to take swift action against the perpetrators. Then, a detailed report released by the Georgetown University investigative journalism effort said that Pearl had been beheaded by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed al-Qaida, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Saturday’s petition identified the British-Pakistani Sheikh as “an internationally recognized terrorist.” It was noted that the man was arrested in India in 1999 related to the abduction of foreigners in the country. Later that year, Sheikh was released from prison and sent to Afghanistan in exchange for hijacked Indian airplane passengers.
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