KARACHI / ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani authorities on Friday ordered the detention of four men who are due to be released after being acquitted in court for the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl, and the government has said it will contest the acquittal next week.
The Sindh Province High Court of Justice acquitted the four on Thursday, including the British Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was sentenced to death in 2002 for organizing the murder of Pearl. The other three were sentenced to life.
Wall Street Journal reporter Pearl, 38, was investigating Islamist activists in the city of Sindh, Karachi, after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States when he was kidnapped in January 2002. He beheaded weeks later.
The Interior Ministry of the Sindh Provincial Government has given orders to arrest and detain the four before their release.
“The Sindh government has sufficient reason for Ahmed Omar Sheikh and Fahad Nasim Ahmed, Syed Salman Saqib, Sheikh Muhammad Adil to be arrested and detained for a period of three months from the date of the arrest (April 2, 2020 ), “A senior ministry official said in order, seen by Reuters.
The official said he feared the men released could act “against the interests of the country”.
The law to keep them in custody is a law that the government has often used to keep prominent suspects, especially activists, in detention after being unable to successfully prosecute them.
The new arrests of the four men give the government time to file a legal appeal against their acquittal.
The appeal will be filed next week in the country’s highest court, the highest court in the country, by the Sindh provincial government, the Pakistani Interior Ministry said on Friday in a statement.
“The Interior Ministry, the government of Pakistan reiterates its commitment to follow due process under the laws of the country to bring terrorists to justice,” the statement added.
The United States denounced on Thursday the judicial acquittal of the four defendants, the highest American diplomat for South Asia writing on Twitter that it was “an affront to the victims of terrorism all over the world”.
“We welcome Pakistan’s decision to appeal the verdict,” said Alice Wells, Acting Under-Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs.
Pakistan has joined the U.S.-led “ war on terror ” after the September 11 attacks on the U.S., but is believed to have secretly supported militant factions for years as tools in its decades-old confrontation with rival India.
Pakistan denies this, but it has been closely monitored by a global terrorist financing watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), with its frequent inability to prosecute terrorism cases, a particular concern of the agency. .
Sheikh was born in Great Britain and received a privileged education and studied at the London School of Economics.
He was arrested in India for his involvement in the kidnapping of western tourists in 1994 as part of his support for Muslim separatists fighting the Indian security forces in the disputed region of Kashmir.
He was one of three men released from Indian jail after activists hijacked an Indian airliner in late 1999 and transported it to Afghanistan, where the Taliban government of the day helped negotiate an exchange.
Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Robert Birsel