Pakistan's Supreme Court has ordered the release from prison of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the man acquitted of the gruesome beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
The decision on February 2 comes after a three-judge panel reviewed and confirmed its decision last week to acquit Sheikh, who had been on death row for 18 years since originally being convicted by an anti-terrorism court for his role in the kidnapping and murder of Pearl by Al-Qaeda and Pakistani Islamist militants in 2002.
"He should be moved to a comfortable residential environment something like a rest house where he can live a normal life," Justice Omar Ata Bandyal, the head of the panel, said in the ruling.
The acquittal of the former London School of Economics student -- as well as three others convicted in the case -- stunned Pearl’s family and the Pakistani government and sparked outrage in the United States.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the court’s decision as “an affront to terrorism victims everywhere, including in Pakistan,” and said the United States was prepared to prosecute Sheikh domestically.
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 video showing Pearl's decapitation was delivered to the U.S. Consulate in Karachi nearly a month later.
A letter handwritten by Sheikh in 2019, in which he admitted a “minor" role in the killing of the Wall Street Journal reporter, was submitted to Pakistan's Supreme Court earlier this month.
It wasn't until January 27 that Sheikh's lawyers confirmed their client wrote the letter, which doesn’t exactly say what his alleged role in Pearl's slaying was.