Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ruled that four men convicted of kidnapping and murdering American journalist Daniel Pearl should go free.
Pearl was working as the South Asia bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal in 2002 when he was kidnapped in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, while reporting on Richard Reid, the British terrorist known as the “shoe bomber.”
The high profile abduction drew international attention, amid growing concern over the threat posed by radical Islamic terrorism.
Assailants later filmed Pearl’s beheading and sent it to United States officials. It was among the first propaganda videos targeting hostages created by extremists, and helped to inspire other terror groups to film horrific and egregious acts of violence.
Four men were arrested in 2002, and convicted of the kidnap and murder of Pearl. One, British national Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, was given the death penalty.
In April last year, a high court in Sindh province, where Karachi is located, overturned the convictions of three of the four men and reduced Sheikh’s sentenced to seven years in prison, meaning he was eligible for release on time served.
The court said the men had “suffered irreparable harm and extreme prejudice” after spending 18 years behind bars prior, and in December ordered all four to be set free, but both the Pearl family and the Pakistani authorities appealed to the country’s Supreme Court, which on Thursday ruled against them.
According to a statement from lawyer Faisal Siddique Said, the family was “in complete shock” at the majority decision, which they described as a “complete travesty of justice” which would endanger journalists and the people of Pakistan.
The statement urged the US government “to take all necessary actions under the law to correct this injustice” and added that the family hoped the Pakistani authorities would also act.