Daniel Pearl case: US presses Pakistan for ‘accountability’
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday pressed his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi to ensure “accountability” for Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who had been convicted over the killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
The United Nations has also called for the convicted terrorist to be held accountable.
Omar Sheikh is set to be released after Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday upheld his acquittal by a lower court in a verdict that sparked outrage in the United States.
A three-judge court, which ruled 2-1 to clear the way for Omar Sheikh’s release, has said it will explain its order at a later date.
Blinken and Qureshi spoke for the first time on Friday after the Biden administration took office. They “discussed how to ensure accountability for convicted terrorist Omar Sheikh and others responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl”, the state department said in a readout of their call. “The secretary (of state) reinforced US concern about the Pakistani Supreme Court ruling and potential release of these prisoners,” it added.
Blinken reinforced this message in a post on Twitter.
At the United Nations in New York, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the secretary general, had a similar message for Pakistan. “I don’t have a comment on the specific case. What is important is that there be accountability for those crimes committed,” he told reporters in response to a question about Omar Sheikh’s acquittal.
Daniel Pearl, who was South Asia bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped and murdered in Karachi in 2002. A video of his beheading was posted online.
Omar Sheikh, who is British-born, was arrested and convicted for Pearl’s kidnapping and murder, and was eventually sentenced to death, which was commuted by the Sindh high court in April 2020 to seven years.
He had already been in prison for 18 years by that time.
His release was delayed as the Sindh state government and Pearl’s family appealed to the Supreme Court.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki had earlier expressed “outrage” at the Pakistan Supreme Court’s order on Thursday, and Blinken had separately said the acquittal was an “affront to terrorism victims everywhere”.
They had both reaffirmed US preparedness to prosecute Omar Sheikh in America, renewing an offer first made by the Trump administration in December 2020.