The United States (US) State Justice Department said the US is ready to take custody of Omar Sheikh, one of the primary accused in the Daniel Pearl kidnap and murder case, if the Pakistani government fails to prevent him from walking free of all charges.

“We remain grateful for the Pakistani government’s actions to appeal such rulings to ensure that he and his co-defendants are held accountable,” said the US Justice Department in a statement today.

“If, however, those efforts do not succeed, the United States stands ready to take custody of Omar Sheikh to stand trial here. We cannot allow him to evade justice for his role in Daniel Pearl’s abduction and murder.”

In the statement, acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said, “We understand that Pakistani authorities are taking steps to ensure that Omar Sheikh remains in custody while the Supreme Court appeal seeking to reinstate his conviction continues. The separate judicial rulings reversing his conviction and ordering his release are an affront to terrorism victims everywhere.”

This comes in response to the Sindh High Court (SHC)’s order on December to immedietely release Daniel Pearl’s murder suspects from police custody, and to place them on the Exit Control List. The court cited the lack of legal grounds to keep the suspects in custody, after the Sindh Government had twice extended its notification to keep the four accused detained for “public safety.” The SHC has deemed this notification void because it does not mention the primary accused, Omar Shaikh’s association with any terrorist organization.

The US State Department expressed “deep concern” over these developments, and said it has been assured that the accused have not yet been released from custody.

Consequently, a review application for this verdict was filed at the Supreme Court by the Sindh Government against the Sindh High Court.

Daniel Pearl, an American journalist serving as Wall Street Journal’s Pakistan bureau chief, was beheaded in Pakistan in 2002. Four accused in the murder case were convicted to death or life imprisonment. However, all accused were acquitted by the Sindh High Court in April 2020.

The acquittal is currently being appealed in the Supreme Court by Pearl’s parents, Ruth and Judea Pearl, as well as the Sindh government.

“We 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,” Daniel Pearl’s parents stated.

The next court hearing for the acquittal case is scheduled for January 5, 2021.


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