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Pakistani court overturns Briton’s conviction over murder of US journalist

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was found guilty of the lesser charge of kidnapping Daniel Pearl.

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Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh (Zia Mazhar/AP)

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh (Zia Mazhar/AP)

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh (Zia Mazhar/AP)

A Pakistani court has overturned the murder conviction of a British Pakistani man found guilty of the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street journalist Daniel Pearl.

Instead, the court found Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh guilty of the lesser charge of kidnapping and sentenced him to seven years in jail.

One of his lawyers, Khwaja Naveed, said he could go free unless the government chooses to challenge the court decision.

Judea Pearl, father of Daniel Pearl
Judea Pearl, father of Daniel Pearl (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

Sheikh has already spent 18 years in prison in southern Hyderabad on death row. It is expected that the seven-year sentence will be counted as time served, said Mr Naveed.

Sindh High Court also acquitted three others accused in the case – Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib – who were earlier sentenced to life in prison.

“Justice has been done to my clients,” said Mr Naveed.

Sheikh, a former student at the London School of Economics, and the others were convicted in 2002.

London School of Economics
London School of Economics (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The defendants were also collectively fined 32,000 dollars. At the time, chief prosecutor Raja Quereshi said the money would go to Mr Pearl’s widow Mariane and their infant son, who was born after his father was killed.

Seven more suspects were never arrested.

Mr Pearl disappeared in Karachi while researching links between Pakistani militants and shoe bomber Richard Reid, who was arrested in December on a flight from Paris to Miami.

Prosecutors said Sheikh lured Pearl into a trap by promising to arrange an interview with an Islamic cleric who police believe was not involved in the conspiracy.

A videotape received by US diplomats confirmed that Pearl, 38, was dead.

PA