Washington, DC – American lawmakers, diplomats and journalists reacted with shock and disbelief as news came from Pakistan – always a harbinger of terrorists and Islamic jihadists – that a Pakistani court overturned the murder conviction of British national Omar Saeed Sheikh for killing Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, and reduced his death sentence to seven years for kidnapping.
In response to the decision of the Sindh High Court in Pakistan to overturn the murder convictions of four men accused in the 2002 killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, India America Today condemns the decision to let free the killer of one of our finest journalists and calls upon the government of Pakistan to do the needful to bring to justice one of the most heinous criminals.
The National Press Club, the world’s leading professional organization for journalists – representing more than 3,000 reporters, editors and professional communicators worldwide – and its arm the National Press Club Journalism Institute in a statement urged Pakistani courts to reconsider a ruling that would lessen the sentence of a man convicted of masterminding the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
“Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh should not, and must not, be a free man,” said National Press Club President Michael Freedman, adding, “He lured Danny Pearl into captivity and he detained him against his will, which led to the journalist’s murder, even if Sheikh did not himself behead Pearl. We call on the Supreme Court of Pakistan to ensure justice for Danny Pearl.”
Pearl’s case has always been of vital interest to the National Press Club. On Feb. 14, 2002 – during the period of Pearl’s captivity and before his brutal execution was discovered – President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan spoke and took questions at the club. His questioner that day, National Press Club President John Aubuchon, called on Musharraf to do everything in his power to find and free Pearl. The Club’s annual Press Freedom Award was later named for Aubuchon.
“Our memory of Pearl has long inspired our fight for press freedom, and it continues to inspire it every day.” said Angela Greiling Keane, the president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute.
Expressing disappointment on the decision, Steven Butler, Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement: “The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply disappointed to see justice in the murder case of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl denied by a Pakistani court today,” adding, “We urge prosecutors to appeal the decision, which found Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh guilty only of kidnapping Pearl in a crime that led directly to his murder.”
A tweet attributed to Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) Alice Wells of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) of the US State Department said, “The overturning of the convictions for Daniel Pearl’s murder is an affront to victims of terrorism everywhere. We welcome Pakistan’s decision to appeal the verdict. Those responsible for Daniel’s heinous kidnapping and murder must face the full measure of justice. AGW.”
The US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Congressman Eliot Engel expressed concern in a tweet saying, “Deeply concerned by Pakistan court’s overturning of convictions for the abduction & killing of Daniel Pearl. It’s critical Pakistan demonstrate a real commitment to addressing its longstanding terrorism problem by holding those involved accountable.”
“We are appalled by the court’s decision to overturn the murder conviction of Omar Saeed Sheikh and release him from prison,” stated the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Johnnie Moore. “After nearly two decades, there is still insufficient accountability for the horrific murder of Daniel Pearl who was executed, in part, for being Jewish. This terrible situation reminds us that freedom of religion and freedom of press are intertwined – they are two sides of the same coin. This Passover we grieve with Daniel’s loved ones whose pain will be relived through this renewed injustice. May his memory be a blessing,” added Moore.
USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava added, “This verdict shows not only the lack of accountability for Daniel Pearl’s murder but the misplaced priorities of the Pakistani legal system. There are currently dozens of prisoners facing life sentences and the death penalty under the country’s blasphemy law, so often abused to convict religious minorities using false evidence. We urge the Pakistani government to prioritize the release of prisoners of conscience who are especially vulnerable now with the spread of the coronavirus.”
The murder was also a glaring example of antisemitism as reflected in a tweet from StopAntisemitism.org saying: “Heartbreaking to see that the murderers of Jewish reporter Daniel Pearl have been released from a Pakistani prison today! Pearl was beheaded in 2002; before he was violently killed, he stated –
“My father is Jewish,
My mother is Jewish,
I am Jewish.””
Omar Saeed Sheikh is a British national with a history of extremism and was convicted on three separate charges related to orchestrating the kidnapping and murder. He was sentenced to death for each. Pearl was murdered in the southern city of Karachi in January 2002 while working on a story about religious extremists in Pakistan in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Sheikh, who had previously faced a death sentence, had his sentence reduced to seven years for the crime of kidnapping, which could lead to his release shortly since he has been in prison since 2002. The court also overturned the convictions of three others in the case.