A Pakistani court on Thursday overturned the murder conviction for the killer of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, as well as three other men who had taken part in Pearl’s kidnapping.
“Most of the evidence against these men was not collected, but created,” defense attorney Khawaja Naveed Ahmed told the Journal. “It was concocted.”
The charges against Pearl’s murderer, Omar Saeed Sheikh, were reduced from murder, terrorism, and kidnapping for ransom, to a simple charge of kidnapping.
While Sheikh and his accomplices were originally sentenced to death, the court’s decision reduces Sheikh’s sentence to seven years, which he has already served since being convicted in 2002. Pakistan state prosecutors could appeal the Thursday decision to the country’s supreme court, in which case Sheikh would be held in prison until a final ruling is delivered.
Pearl was reporting on religious extremism following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when he was kidnapped by Sheikh and the group of terrorists in southern Pakistan in early 2002. Sheikh beheaded Pearl on video, over a decade before ISIS terrorists began filming the murders of prisoners for propaganda purposes. Pearl’s murder directed international attention to various jihadist cells operating out of Pakistan, including Al Qaeda and Taliban networks.
Sheikh, a British national who initially studied at the London School of Economics, dropped out of school after having an apparent religious awakening. He became involved with Pakistani militants in the 1990’s.