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US ‘ready’ for trial of prime accused in Daniel Pearl murder case

WASHINGTON: The United States Attorney General on Tuesday issued a statement expressing concern on the court ruling in the Daniel Pearl murder case and said the country “stands ready” to try the prime accused Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.

The statement from Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A Rosen comes after the Sindh High Court (SHC) order to free the accused and declared their detention illegal. The SHC order overturning the murder conviction and death sentence of Sheikh Omar, and acquitting three other men connected to the case had sparked outrage.

The four are being held under the emergency orders of the Sindh government while an ongoing appeal against their acquittals is heard in the Supreme Court, but defence lawyers have argued against their continued detention in the SHC.

“We understand that Pakistani authorities are taking steps to ensure that Omar Sheikh remains in custody while the Supreme Court appeal seeking to reinstate his conviction continues,” Jeffrey Rosen said in the statement, calling the acquittals “an affront to terrorism victims everywhere.”

“We remain grateful for the Pakistani government’s actions to appeal such rulings to ensure that (Sheikh) and his co-defendants are held accountable,” he added.

“If, however, those efforts do not succeed, the United States stands ready to take custody of Omar Sheikh to stand trial here,” the statement said. “We cannot allow him to evade justice for his role in Daniel Pearl’s abduction and murder.”

Sheikh Omar, who once studied at the London School of Economics and had been involved in previous kidnappings of foreigners, was arrested days after Pearl’s abduction and later sentenced to death by hanging.

Pearl was South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted in Karachi in January 2002 while researching a story on militant extremism. A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate nearly a month later.