Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ordered the release from prison of Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was convicted and later acquitted over the gruesome beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.
Pakistan’s government had appealed to the court on Friday to review its decision to free the British-born Islamist and three others convicted in the case, a day after their acquittal by a panel of three judges.
The United States also expressed concern over Sheikh’s acquittal, and top diplomat Antony Blinken repeated a call for accountability in his first phone call with Pakistan’s foreign minister on Friday.
The review panel, headed by Justice Omar Ata Bandyal, stood by the decision to acquit and recommended that Sheikh should be moved to a “rest house” before being fully released.
“He should be moved to a comfortable residential environment, something like a rest house where he can live a normal life,” the judge said.
As the government makes the arrangements in the next two days, Sheikh will be kept in a comfortable environment in the jail with permission to see his family, the court said.
“It is not complete freedom. It is a step toward freedom,” the prisoner’s father, Saeed Sheikh, said.
The terms of Sheikh’s release will become clearer once a written order is made public.
On assignment for the Wall Street Journal in the months after the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States, Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi and later killed.