January 29, 2021

The man convicted of kidnapping and murdering Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is set to be released from jail after a 2-1 ruling by Pakistan’s Supreme Court. Three of his alleged accomplices also are to be freed. Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan, and beheaded five months after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Through their attorney, the Pearl family called the ruling “a complete travesty of justice.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the ruling an “affront to terror victims everywhere.”

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British-born Pakistani, was sentenced to death for Pearl’s kidnapping and murder. But the case was reopened after Saeed’s attorneys argued a lack of evidence. Last April, his murder conviction was overturned and his kidnapping charge was lowered to a lesser charge. The court ruled that his sentence for that had long been served. The Pearl family fought that ruling, but the Supreme Court ruled Thursday to release Saeed, offering no comment on its decision. Just this week, after years of denials, Saeed admitted to having a “minor” role in Pearl’s death.

One of the masterminds behind the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, confessed to Pearl’s murder while at Guantanamo Bay in 2007, but prosecutors never charged him, believing his confession would not hold up in court because he might have been coerced, possibly through torture.

According to The Washington Post’s Shaiq Hussain, Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Matt Murray said, “This is an infuriating and unjust decision. We’ll continue to support efforts to hold to account those responsible for the brutal murder of Danny.”

In their statement, the Pearl family also said, “The release of these killers puts in danger journalists everywhere and the people of Pakistan. We urge the US government to take all necessary actions under the law to correct this injustice. We also hope that the Pakistani authorities will take all necessary steps to rectify this travesty of justice. No amount of injustice will defeat our resolve to fight for justice for Daniel Pearl.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Saeed Shah and CNN’s Sophia Saifi have more on the story.

This piece originally appeared in The Poynter Report, our daily newsletter for everyone who cares about the media. Subscribe to The Poynter Report here.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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