A Pakistani court on Thursday (2 April) commuted the death sentence of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British-born man, convicted of kidnapping and murdering Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Omar was sentenced to death in 2002 for being the mastermind behind the kidnapping and killing of Pearl and had been in prison for almost 18 years, awaiting the final judgement.
At least four people were convicted in the murder of Pearl, including Omar. The other three serving life sentences have also been acquitted.
Omar’s role in the murder has been long disputed. As per a report in The Guardian, the murder may have been carried out by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the key organiser of the 9/11 attacks, presently locked up in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
In 2007, US officials said that Khalid had confessed to the murder after being systematically tortured following his arrest in Pakistan in 2003.
Khawaja Naveed, defending Omar, while speaking to Reuters after the court hearing said that Omar’s sentence had been reduced to 7 years since murder charges were not proven and given he had already served 18 years, his release orders were imminent. The order was issued by a two-member bench of the high court of Sindh province in Karachi.
Omar has an elaborate history with India too. While trying to kidnap tourists in India to secure the release of another militant, he was imprisoned after being captured in a police raid. However, he had to be released following the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane in 1999. The son of a rich Pakistani businessman, Omar went to the London School of Economics, briefly, before joining an extremist group.
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