A Pakistani man convicted of kidnapping and murdering the Jewish American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 is set to be released within days after his death sentence was commuted.
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who has been in prison for 18 years, awaiting the outcome of his appeals, learned of his pending release this week, after a court ruled instead that his death sentence should be commuted to seven years, which he has already served.
Pearl was a Wall Street Journal reporter in Pakistan investigating al-Qaeda when he was kidnapped in Karachi in February 2002 by a team thought to have included Sheikh. His beheading several days later was captured on video and subsequently broadcast in a three-minute film titled ‘The Slaughter of the Spy-Journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl.’
In it Pearl says: “I’m a Jewish American… On my father’s side the family is Zionist. My father’s Jewish, my mother’s Jewish, I’m Jewish. My family follows Judaism. We’ve made numerous family visits to Israel.”
Sheikh, who is now 46, grew up in east London before being radicalised in Pakistan. He was sentenced to death five months later but most analysts believe that he was only involved in Pearl’s kidnap, not his killing.
Instead, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a 9/11 organiser still being held at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, has confessed to personally killing Pearl, but his systematic torture after his arrest in Pakistan in 2003 renders the admission unreliable.