The father of slain American journalist Daniel Pearl on Friday welcomed Pakistan’s decision to challenge the verdict of a local court ordering the release of a militant convicted of murdering their son in 2002.
“We are heartened to hear that the government of Pakistan is filing an appeal against the release order so that our son’s murderers will remain in jail,” Daniel Pearl’s father Judea Pearl tweeted.
The decision by Sindh High Court to release the accused comes months after it sparked outrage for overturning the murder conviction and death sentence of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and acquitted three other men connected to the case.
The four are being held under the emergency orders of the local government while an ongoing appeal against their acquittals is heard in the Supreme Court, but defence lawyers argued against their continued detention in the south of the country.
“We refuse to believe that Pakistan government and Pakistani people will let such a travesty of justice tarnish its name and justice will prevail,” Judea said, referring to the latest court order.
“We also have full confidence in the Supreme Court of Pakistan to provide justice for our beloved son and reinforce the paramount importance of the freedom of the press,” he added.
In a written order issued Thursday, the Sindh court ordered that all four “be released from jail forthwith on the receipt of this order”.
A lawyer representing Sheikh and his co-defendants said the court had found there was “no valid reason for depriving them of their freedom”.
Sindh government spokesman Murtaza Wahab told AFP that “we will definitely file an appeal against the Sindh High Court verdict”.
He did not specify any timeframe, however, stressing that “legal proceedings take time.”
Sheikh, a British-born jihadist who once studied at the London School of Economics and had been involved in previous kidnappings of foreigners, was arrested days after Pearl’s abduction and later sentenced to death by hanging.
In January 2011, a report released by the Pearl Project at Georgetown University following an investigation into his death made chilling revelations, and said that the wrong men had been convicted for Pearl’s murder.
The investigation, led by Pearl’s friend and former Wall Street Journal colleague Asra Nomani and a Georgetown University professor, claimed the reporter was murdered by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, not Sheikh.
Pearl was South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted in Karachi in January 2002 while researching a story about Islamist militants.