Pakistani court acquits formerly convicted killers of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl

During the kerfuffle of global concern over the Sars-CoV-2 pandemic, on Thursday a Pakistani court which had been limited to hearing only “essential cases” commuted the sentence of a death row inmate and acquitted three life sentences of people who were altogether found guilty in 2002 for the kidnapping and murder of the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Pearl.

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, an Englishman, had been appealing his death sentence for nearly two decades. He was convicted on July 15, 2002 along with some of his alleged accomplices, Salman Saqib, Fahad Naseem, and Shaikh Adil, for orchestrating the murder and kidnapping of Daniel Pearl.

According to Tribune, Sheikh was known to be involved in terror activities and he was suspected of aiding with some of the finances behind 9/11. Thursday’s court ruling commuted Sheikh’s sentence to only kidnapping charges, which ultimately took the death penalty off the table for a slap on the wrist of seven years.

Sheikh is likely to see the light of day within a few days as the new sentence of seven years was less time than the 18 years he spent in prison. Although, as The Hill reported, the government plans to appeal the decision.

According to The Guardian, it was unclear if the former death row inmate was the man who decapitated Pearl. It was possible that this part was done by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a 9/11 mastermind and Guantánamo inmate, who confessed to the killing during a military hearing.

Mohammed said, “I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew.”

Pearl was the Journal’s South Asia foreign correspondent who was investigating terrorism when he went missing on Jan. 23, 2002. He was last seen traveling to interview a potential informant at a local restaurant in Karachi, Pakistan.

The meeting was actually a carefully planned booby trap that was ultimately carried out by well over a dozen militants.

The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, an Islamist terror group which had aims to bring an Islamist revolution to Pakistan, kidnapped Pearl and later gave him up to al-Qaida militants who ultimately committed the murder.

Within days of Pearl’s disappearance, the United States received emails from “Kidnapperguy” which provided several photographs of Pearl, including one with a gun pointed to his head and another with an up to date newspaper. The terror group then demanded that all  Guantánamo Bay prisoners be released, a demand so extreme that it was unlikely to be met.

Daniel Pearl is held captive by NMRPS
Daniel Pearl holds an up to date newspaper

The sender said they believed Pearl was a CIA agent. According to the Center for Public Integrity, who did a thorough investigation into the murder, both the CIA and the Wall Street Journal issued statements denying that Pearl was a spy.

At the time there was hope among Pearl’s colleagues and family that he could be brought home to safety.

On Jan. 30, a week after the kidnapping, the terrorists changed their tunes in the email correspondence. They no longer believed Pearl was a spy for America but an agent of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency.

Another e-mail was sent on January 30… This e-mail accused him of being an agent of Mossad… and said he would be killed within 24 hours unless the group’s demands were met… authorities believe that Pearl may have been murdered before [this] e-mail was sent.

via Committee to Protect Journalists

A declassified FBI file reveals that it was believed Pearl was killed on or about that same time period.

Oddly enough, also on Jan. 30 an article was published at a Pakistani newspaper by a reporter named Kamran Khan that outed Pearl as a Jew. He reported:

“some Pakistani security officials — not familiar with the worth of solid investigative reporting in the international media — are privately searching for answers as to why a Jewish American reporter was exceeding ‘his limits’ to investigate [a] Pakistani religious
group.”

Kamran Khan at The News International. Information sourced from the Center of Public Integrity (pg. 59).

It was unclear whether this reporting alerted the radical Islamic terrorists that their captive was a Jew or if they found out some other way.

In an interview Khan later said, “I feel sorry that I wrote that Danny was Jewish.”

via Center for Public Integrity

All hope that Pearl was alive ended when a video of the barbaric beheading was produced a few weeks later. In his last words Pearl declared, “I am a Jew.”

One of Pearl’s colleagues at the Journal, Asra Q. Nomani, detailed the contents of video at The Washingtonian:

Danny is without his glasses in the footage, with a few days’ stubble…. Suddenly Danny is on his back and a hand holding a long knife saws furiously at his throat.

The next frame comes quickly—the video has obviously been edited—and shows Danny supine, a bloody swamp in place of his neck. The film cuts to the killer holding Danny’s head up high by his hair for a good ten seconds.

One of Pearl’s colleagues, Asra Q. Nomani, described the scene for The Washingtonian.

It was later uncovered that after dismembering the body and placing the parts in shopping bags the terrorists recognized that it was time for ṣalāt al-maġrib, or sunset prayer, so they washed the grizzly floor of Danny’s blood and prayed to Allah.

I dug a big hole and took out Danny’s remains from the shopping bags and buried the pieces in the big hole. They had made ten pieces of the remains. . . . The floor of the room was then washed and the sunset prayer was done.

One of the captors’ statements. Report via The Washingtonian.

When authorities later found Pearl’s body buried in the outskirts of Karachi it was butchered in 12 pieces.

“These are vicious people,” a Pakistani journalist said at the time to NBC. “They are extremely dangerous people… for them, killing somebody means nothing at all.”

At a ceremony commemorating Pearl at his Alma Mater, Stanford University, a rabbi had said that “Pearl was abducted and murdered because he was an American, a journalist and a Jew.”

In what could be seen as an act of defiance, it was reported that Pearl, 38, refused to be sedated in the hours leading to his death despite knowing he was likely going to be killed by the kidnappers.

Also, at some point Pearl attempted to escape. He asked one of his captors if he could use the restroom. Once he was lead outside he attacked the radical jihadi and ran towards the fence surrounding the location. He began to call for help.

Unfortunately, Pearl was recaptured.

Daniel Pearl’s wife, Mariane Pearl, was five months pregnant with their son, Adam, when she found out her husband was killed.

This article was syndicated to the Investigative Project on Terrorism and the Jewish Press.