British-born terrorist Omar Saeed Sheikh’s death sentence for the gruesome murder of journalist Daniel Pearl was commuted to seven years in prison by a Pakistan court on Thursday, according to Pakistani media.
Three other men convicted of Pearl’s murder have been acquitted and ordered to be freed.
The Sindh high court’s verdict, which overturned the conviction of an anti-terrorism court, delivered its verdict following appeals by the four convicts.
Daniel Pearl, a 38-year-old American journalist, was abducted in Karachi while researching a story on Pakistan terrorists for the Wall Street Journal in the months after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States. His remains were later found in a shallow grave on the outskirts of the port city. A videotape that was circulated later showed his captors forcing him to say that he was Jewish before slitting his throat.
Omar Sheikh’s lawyer Khawja Naveed told AFP that since Sheikh has been in prison since 2002, he was expected to be released, but the court had not yet issued that order, Naveed said.
Sheikh, a British citizen of Pakistani origin, was freed by India along with Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Masood Azhar and terrorist Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar in exchange for the passengers of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 hijacked by a group of Pakistani terrorists from Kathmandu to Kandahar in December 1999.
Thursday’s verdict was pronounced by a two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha on appeals filed by the four men 18 years ago.
The high court also dismissed an appeal by the prosecution seeking enhancement of life sentence given to the three other men – Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil.