The federal government has decided to seek a review of the acquittal of a British-born militant convicted of masterminding the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl.
The development comes a day after US Secretary of State
Antony Blinken directly pressed on the case.
The federal government has decided to become a party in the review petition filed by the Sindh government, a statement from the attorney general’s office said Saturday.
It will request the Supreme Court to constitute a larger
bench for the hearing of the review petition.
Pakistan’s top court on Thursday dismissed an appeal against a lower court’s decision to clear British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three others over the killing, after nearly two decades in jail.
The decision extended a legal tug of war between the Sindh
provincial government — who kept the group behind bars using emergency powers
— and the courts.
On Friday, Blinken raised “how to ensure accountability for convicted terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and others responsible” for Pearl’s murder, the US State Department said.
Profile: Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh
The White House earlier said it was “outraged” by
the Supreme Court’s ruling and has suggested allowing American officials to
prosecute Omar Sheikh.
Pearl was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street
Journal when he was abducted in Karachi in January 2002. He was researching a
story on militants at the time.
Nearly a month later, after a string of ransom demands were
made, officials received a graphic video showing Pearl’s decapitation.
Sheikh, a British-born jihadist who once studied at the
London School of Economics, was arrested days after Pearl’s abduction. He had
been involved in previous kidnappings of foreigners too.
He was later sentenced to death after he told a Karachi
court that Pearl had already been killed days before the gruesome video of the
journalist’s beheading had been released.
Last year, a lower court acquitted 47-year-old Sheikh of
murder and reduced his conviction to a lesser charge of kidnapping —
overturning his death sentence and ordering him to be freed after almost two
decades in prison.
It followed filing of petitions, including from the Pearl
family. But the Supreme Court rejected them in a split decision Thursday,
upholding the acquittal.