Militant acquitted of Pearl murder to be moved to 'rest house'

Islamabad (AFP) –


Pakistan's top court on Tuesday ordered a British-born militant acquitted of murdering US journalist Daniel Pearl to be moved from prison to a "rest house" while fresh legal challenges are heard.

The Supreme Court last week upheld a decision to overturn Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh’s murder conviction and death sentence, but his release has been opposed by the federal and provincial governments.

An appeal against the decision has also been filed by Pearl's family.

"He should be moved to a comfortable environment... to a good rest house where he can live a normal life," Justice Umar Ata Bandial said in a ruling, adding that Sheikh should be confined to quarters, but his family allowed to visit.

While the secure government accommodation is being arranged, Sheikh should be moved from his death row cell to an ordinary jail block, the judge said.

Pearl was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted and beheaded by jihadists in Karachi in January 2002 while researching a story about Islamist militants.

Sheikh, 47, who once studied at the London School of Economics and had been involved in previous kidnappings of foreigners, was arrested days after Pearl's abduction.

He was later sentenced to death after telling a Karachi court that Pearl had been killed days before a gruesome video of the journalist's beheading had been released.

Three other men convicted of the murder were also acquitted.

US President Joe Biden's administration has expressed its outrage over the decision, with the new secretary of state pressing the issue in his first phone call with his Pakistani counterpart.