Islamabad: Four men acquitted in the kidnapping and killing of American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan have been rearrested and will stay in jail while prosecutors appeal the ruling, officials said.
The Sindh High Court (SHC) sparked US outrage on Thursday after it acquitted the four, including prime suspect Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was sentenced to death in 2002 for masterminding Pearl’s murder. The other three had been sentenced to life.
However hours after the verdict, the Sindh Home Department issued an order late Thursday night to arrest and detain the four before they were released from prison, citing sufficient reason to believe that these men may act “against the interest of the country”, Pakistan’s oldest and leading newspaper Dawn reported.
The men have been rearrested and will be detained “for a period of three months pending filing of the appeal”, the interior ministry said.
Pearl was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. He had been researching links between Islamist militant activity in Karachi and Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a passenger plane using bombs hidden in his shoes when he was abducted in Karachi in January 2002.
The United States on Friday criticised the SHC for overturning the death sentence of Sheikh, calling the verdict an “affront” to victims of terrorism everywhere.
“The overturning of the convictions for Daniel Pearl’s murder is an affront to victims of terrorism everywhere,” Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, said in a tweet.
But the top diplomat for South Asia, however, welcomed Pakistani prosecutors’ indications that they would appeal the decision. “We welcome Pakistan’s decision to appeal the verdict. Those responsible for Daniel’s heinous kidnapping and murder must face the full measure of justice,” Wells said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that the US would not forget Pearl. “We continue to honour his legacy as a courageous journalist and demand justice for his brutal murder,” he tweeted.