Appeal filed against acquittal of Daniel Pearl murder suspects

Islamabad (AFP) –


Pakistan prosecutors have appealed against the acquittal of British-born militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was sentenced to death 18 years ago for the kidnapping and brutal murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

The Wall Street Journal reporter's beheading sparked revulsion and international outrage in early 2002, putting pressure on Pakistan's military government just as it was remaking its image following years of backing the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Sheikh and three accomplices had their convictions overturned by a provincial court earlier this month, spurring condemnation from the US and media watchdog groups.

Fiaz Shah, the prosecutor-general for Sindh, told AFP Thursday the appeal had been formally lodged by the provincial government. He could not say when it might be heard.

Following their acquittal, the four men were immediately re-arrested by authorities and will be held for at least three months while the appeal plays out.

Pearl, 38, was 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.

Observers at the time said the killers were acting out of revenge for Pakistan's support of the US-led war on the hardline Islamic Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the Al-Qaeda terror network they harboured.

In January 2011, a report released by the Pearl Project at Georgetown University suggested the wrong men had been convicted of Pearl's murder.

An investigation led by Pearl's friend and former colleague Asra Nomani claimed the reporter was murdered by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

Mohammed was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and is being held in Guantanamo Bay. A US psychologist who interviewed him said he had confessed to the killing.