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Men Acquitted In Daniel Pearl Murder Case To Remain In Pakistani Custody


Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh in custody in 2002
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh in custody in 2002

A Pakistani provincial government has ordered a British-born militant whose conviction in the kidnapping and killing of a U.S. journalist was overturned to remain in custody for at least three months.

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three others connected to American journalist Daniel Pearl's killing will remain in custody for at least 90 days on the grounds of “public safety,” according to an April 3 ruling issued by the Home Department of Sindh Province.

The government ordered the men detained as it appeals to the Pakistan Supreme Court to have the sentences reinstated.

The ruling came a day after the High Court of Sindh Province overturned a death sentence and murder conviction imposed on Sheikh over Pearl's 2002 killing.

Defense lawyer Khawja Naveed said that, in handing down the decision, the court reduced Sheikh's sentence to seven years in prison for kidnapping, in what international media-freedom watchdogs called a "denial of justice."

The United States said the decision was an "affront to victims of terrorism."

Since Sheikh has been in prison since 2002, he was expected to be released quickly.

Pearl, 38, was The Wall Street Journal's South Asia bureau chief when he was abducted and beheaded in Karachi in 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

Sheikh, a former student at the London School of Economics, was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court, while three other defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Naveed said those three had been acquitted by the court in its April 2 ruling.

Faiz Shah, the provincial prosecutor-general, said he intended to appeal the ruling.

With reporting by Reuters and AP