Four acquitted in Daniel Pearl murder rearrested pending appeal


An activist of All India Anti-Terrorist Front hold a photograph of slain American journalist Daniel Pearl as they pay homage in New Delhi 24 February 2002.  PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)
An activist of All India Anti-Terrorist Front hold a photograph of slain American journalist Daniel Pearl as they pay homage in New Delhi 24 February 2002. PRAKASH SINGH/AFP via Getty Images)

Four men acquitted in the kidnapping and killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan have been rearrested and will stay in jail while prosecutors appeal the ruling, officials said.

A Pakistani court sparked US outrage on Thursday after it quashed the murder conviction of British-born militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh who had been on death row over the 2002 killing.

Three alleged accomplices also had their convictions overturned.

But Pakistan’s interior ministry said late Friday the four would remain in jail while prosecutors appeal their acquittals in the country’s Supreme Court.

The men have been rearrested and will be detained “for a period of three months pending filing of the appeal”, the interior ministry said.

The statement reiterated the government’s “commitment to follow due process under the laws of the country to bring terrorists to task”.

Omar Sheikh’s kidnapping conviction was upheld by the lower court. He was to spend seven years in jail for that offence and could have walked free for time already served if the government had not intervened.

Pearl, 38, was the 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.

A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate in the city nearly a month later.

Alice Wells, the top US diplomat for South Asia, called the overturning of the sentences “an affront to victims of terrorism everywhere”.

She welcomed Friday’s decision to appeal.

“Those responsible for Daniel’s heinous kidnapping and murder must face the full measure of justice,” Wells wrote on Twitter.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that the US would not forget Pearl.

“We continue to honor his legacy as a courageous journalist and demand justice for his brutal murder,” Pompeo said.

Pearl’s killing provoked international revulsion at the time, putting pressure on Pakistan’s then military government just as it was trying to remake its image following years of backing for the hardline Islamist Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.