The Supreme Court had earlier ruled Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh should remain in custody while the hearing of an appeal against his acquittal in the Wall Street Journal reporter's murder is ongoing.

File photo shows Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh in 2002, after a court hearing in Karachi, Pakistan.
File photo shows Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh in 2002, after a court hearing in Karachi, Pakistan. (AFP Archive)

Pakistan’s Sindh High Court has ordered the man charged in the 2002 murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl be freed.

The court’s order overturns a Supreme Court decision in September that Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh should remain in custody, while an appeal of his acquittal on charges he murdered Pearl is heard, said Mehmood A Sheikh, his lawyer. 

He called for Sheikh, who is no relation, to be released immediately.

“The detention order is struck down,” said Faisal Siddiqi, the Pearl family lawyer. Pearl was a Wall Street Journal reporter abducted from Karachi, Pakistan on January 23, 2002.

Sheikh will be freed until the appeal is completed, he said, but will be returned to prison if the family is successful in overturning the acquittal.

Sheikh was sentenced to death and three others were sentenced to life in prison for their role in the plot. 

But the provincial court acquitted him and three others in April, a move that stunned the US government, Pearl’s family and journalism advocacy groups.

The acquittal is now being appealed separately by both the government and Pearl’s family. 

Sheikh's release danger to public

The government has opposed Sheikh’s release, saying it would endanger the public. The Supreme Court will resume its hearing on January 5.

Sheikh had been convicted of helping lure Pearl to a meeting in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi, where he was kidnapped. 

Pearl had been investigating the link between Pakistani militants and Richard C Reid, dubbed the “Shoe Bomber” after trying to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes.

A gruesome video of Pearl’s beheading was sent to the US consulate. The 38-year-old journalist was from Encino, California.

Source: AP