Pakistan’s government on Friday appealed to the Supreme Court to review its decision to free an Islamist convicted of kidnapping and beheading U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl, a day after the United States expressed “deep concerns” over the ruling.
A panel of three judges of the court on Thursday acquitted British-born Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three co-accused, who had been convicted in 2002 on charges of kidnapping and murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter.
The court ordered the Islamist and his co-accused released forthwith if they are not required in any other case.
The government in southern Sindh province filed a petition asking the top court to review its decision, the Pearl family’s lawyer Faisal Siddiqi and the Sindh government’s prosecutor said.
“We have filed three review petitions,” prosecutor Faiz Shah said, explaining that the petitions would seek a reversal of the acquittal and the reinstatement of Sheikh’s death penalty.
“Being aggrieved of and dissatisfied with the judgement, the petitioner files an instant criminal review petition for leave to appeal on matters of law, facts and grounds,” the petition seeking the reversal of the acquittal said.
Pearl, 38, was investigating Islamist militants in Karachi after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States when he was kidnapped. A video of his beheading emerged weeks later.
His parents expressed shock over the Supreme Court’s decision, which U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called “an affront to terrorism victims everywhere, including in Pakistan”.
Washington was also prepared to prosecute Sheikh in the United States, Blinken said.
A high court last year commuted Sheikh’s death penalty into a life sentence and acquitted his three co-accused, citing lack of evidence.
The government and Pearl’s parents challenged that decision and pleaded to the Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty, that was turned down on Thursday.