In 2002 Daniel Pearl, a Jewish American correspondent for the Wall Street Journal working in Pakistan, was kidnapped by Muslim terrorists and brutally murdered. At the time of his kidnapping, he was working on a story in Karachi about Muslim religious extremists in Pakistan in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The shock of Pearl’s beheading at the hands of terrorists created an international story that brought pressure to the Pakistani government to find his murderers and bring them to justice.
Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British national with a history of extremism, and three accomplices were apprehended and convicted in court. Sheikh, the ringleader of the bunch, was convicted of three separate charges of being the mastermind behind the kidnapping and murder. All of the charges carry a death sentence. The other three men, Salman Saqib, Fahad Naseem, and Sheik Adil, were sentenced to life in prison.
The Pakistani court heard Sheikh’s appeal and has overturned the convictions for murder and terrorism. The court also downgraded the kidnapping charge to simple kidnapping. In total, his sentence was reduced to seven years. He’s been behind bars since 2002. The convictions against the accomplices were overturned.
The court found discrepancies in much of the evidence used to convict Mr. Sheikh and others, including questions over who owned a computer from which ransom emails were supposed to have been sent and the circumstances of Mr. Sheikh’s arrest. The court also said it didn’t find any evidence linking Mr. Sheikh or the others to the actual murder.
“There are many missing links in the chain of evidence from the abduction of Pearl to his ultimate murder,” the court ruled.
Three accomplices who were sentenced to life in prison at the same 2002 trial had their convictions completely overturned Thursday.
At the time of the latest court ruling, the state prosecutor based in Karachi said an appeal would be filed to the Pakistani Supreme Court. A request was submitted for a stay order from the Supreme Court. That order would keep Sheikh in jail until the appeal was heard.
Daniel Pearl’s parents, Ruth and Judea Pearl have worked tirelessly since their son’s murder to bring his killers to justice. They have now filed an appeal to stop the April 2 ruling by the Sindh High Court men that would free all four men. Currently, the men are under a 90-day detention order.
“We are standing up for justice for not only our son, Daniel Pearl, but for all of our dear friends in Pakistan, so they can know a society free of violence and terror, raising their children in peace and harmony,” said Ruth and Judea Pearl, cofounders of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, dedicated to honoring the legacy of their son.
The Pearl parents said, “Since Daniel’s tragic murder 18 years ago, we have missed our son each and every moment of each and every day. Nonetheless, in our grief, we have dedicated ourselves to building bridges with Pakistan, hosting Pakistani journalists in our home, sponsoring music concerts throughout Pakistan and nurturing friendships. Like our son, we believe in the values of peace, friendship, love and justice, and want to make sure we do everything we can do to keep Pakistan safe for her citizens. The men behind Daniel’s murder represent an extremism that we must challenge, and the world is watching how the courts in Pakistan keeps her citizens safe from terrorism and creates a future of peace. ”
The Pearls have thrown themselves into working with groups promoting goodwill between cultures and for the safety of journalists in the world. I feel for them as they continue to grieve the loss of their son yet it’s easy to be cynical about how much good will come from their overtures. Muslim terrorists are animals. That kind of mindset is nearly impossible to overcome, it is culturally ingrained from birth in most cases. The murders of journalists and other Americans overseas continues.
The Committee to Protect Journalists released a statement in support of the Pearls’ appeal.
“The Committee to Protect Journalists strongly supports the Pearl family’s pursuit of justice in the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl in Karachi,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The release of Omar Saeed Sheikh and his accomplices would only add to the threats facing journalists in Pakistan and deepen Pakistan’s reputation as a haven for terrorists.”
According to news reports, Sindh prosecutors filed an appeal to the Supreme Court on April 22. On April 28 prosecutors asked for an early hearing.
Others are speaking out against the travesty of releasing Daniel Pearl’s murderers, including Reporters Without Borders and the publisher of the Wall Street Journal.
Reporters Without Borders, an international watchdog group for journalists, called the decision “incoherent” and a “shocking denial of justice.”
“It recognizes Sheikh’s guilt while in effect overturning his conviction,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of the group’s Asia division.
In a statement, Dow Jones, the Journal’s publisher, said, “We continue to seek justice for the murder of Daniel Pearl. Danny was a cherished colleague and we will always honor his memory and service.”
Washington welcomed Pakistan’s decision to appeal the court’s decision.
“The overturning of the convictions for Daniel Pearl’s murder is an affront to victims of terrorism everywhere,” said Alice Wells, a senior State Department official. “Those responsible for Daniel’s heinous kidnapping and murder must face the full measure of justice.”
Though Pakistan did provide technical help to the United States after the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks and helped with the Pearl investigation, the country remains a hotbed for terrorists. It continues to provide a safe haven while talking out the other side of their mouth about working for justice after brutal attacks. Daniel Pearl’s parents are elderly and his mom looks to be in poor health. Perhaps they can find peace and comfort if their son’s killers are held to their original convictions.
🚨thread BREAKING NEWS. MUST WATCH. Daniel Pearl's parents, Ruth & @YudaPearl, file appeal in Pakistan's Supreme Court, challenging a ruling that would free 4 men convicted in their son's murder 18 years ago. They make their plea in heartbreaking video that is courage incarnate. pic.twitter.com/EUS40ubTFe
— Asra Q. Nomani (@AsraNomani) May 2, 2020