LAHORE: A Pakistani-British man who was on death row for 18 years before his acquittal in the 2002 beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl was transferred on Monday to a government safe house for security reasons, police said.

Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh was handed over to the Punjab Counter-Terrorism department amid tight security, a senior police officer, Suhail Sukhera told The Associated Press.

Sheikh was moved to his home city of Lahore from Karachi. Sukhera provided no further details and only said Sheikh was being kept at a well-guarded place.

Sheikh was acquitted by the Sindh High Court in April 2020 and since then Pearl’s family and the government have been fighting a legal battle to overturn the acquittal. Washington has also expressed concern over the acquittal.

Sheikh has been in custody despite his acquittal under a special law allowing the government to detain people deemed a security risk.

The transfer comes more than a month after the Supreme Court ordered Sheikh moved to a safe house from a special jail cell for inmates sentenced to death.

Authorities say Sheikh will not be allowed to leave the safe house.

Pearl disappeared on Jan 23, 2002, in Karachi where he was investigating links between militant groups and Richard C. Reid, dubbed the shoe bomber. Reid had attempted to blow up a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives hidden in his shoes. Sheikh was convicted of helping lure Pearl to a meeting in Karachi, during which he was kidnapped.

Pearl’s body was discovered in a shallow grave soon after a video of his beheading was delivered to the US Consulate in Karachi. The Pentagon in 2007 released a transcript in which Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, said he had killed Pearl.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2021

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