ISLAMABAD: British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was sentenced to death for the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl, was ordered to be let out of prison on Thursday by the Supreme Court in the latest twist to a legal saga spanning nearly two decades.

The court, however, said that Sheikh should remain in custody in accommodation similar to that given to prison staff while another appeal is considered.

Sheikh and three accomplices have been behind bars since 2002 when they were convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, who was the South Asia bureau chief for Wall Street Journal at that time.

Since then they have won and lost a series of appeals and counter-appeals in connection with the case, with the apex court last year overturning their murder convictions.

That decision meant they had completed their sentences on the kidnapping charge, and the court in January ordered them to be released.

They were kept in custody, however, as the provincial and federal governments — as well as Pearl’s family — launched another petition to keep them behind bars.

On Thursday, the apex court said they should be confined to prison staff accommodation during the process.

“We are not satisfied with the continuous detention of this person,” Justice Umar Ata Bandial said. “The detainee Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh shall be accommodated in a government building in which officers of jail reside.”

Lawyers said Sheikh will likely be transferred from Karachi to Lahore, his ancestral home.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2021

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