Sheldon Kirshner

A Travesty Of Justice In Pakistan

A court in Karachi, Pakistan, has overturned the murder conviction and death sentence of a terrorist and three of his accomplices who kidnapped and murdered the American Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl in January 2002.

What a travesty of justice! What a shame!

These murderers killed Pearl in cold blood just months after Al Qaeda terrorists crashed three hijacked American commercial airliners into the World Trade Center in Manhattan, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C, and an empty field in rural Pennsylvania, killing some 3,000 civilians in the single deadliest terrorist outrage in American history.

Pearl’s convicted killer, Ahmed Omar Sheikh, a British citizen of Pakistani descent, is a jihadist who was a member of the outfit Jaish-e-Muhammed. By all accounts, he lured Pearl — a 38-year-old Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent — to his death by offering him an exclusive interview with Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, a Muslim cleric who knew Richard C. Reid. As may be recalled, Reid, a convert to Islam, is the so-called shoe bomber. In December 2001, he almost succeeded in blowing up an airliner en route from Paris to Miami. At the time of his abduction, Pearl, based in Mumbai, India, was gathering material for a story he was working on regarding Pakistani terrorist groups and their connections to Al Qaeda.

Pearl was an accomplished journalist, having joined the Wall Street Journal in 1990 after stints at the Indianapolis Star, the North Adams Transcript and the Berkshire Eagle. Pearl was posted to Washington and London before moving to Mumbai, where he served as the Journal’s South Asia bureau chief, covering the “war on terrorism” following the events of September 11, 2001.

Pearl’s kidnappers claimed he was an American spy and demanded the release of terrorists in Pakistani prisons in exchange for his freedom. When their demands were rejected, they beheaded Pearl, leaving his wife and family in inconsolable grief.

Under pressure from the United States, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf ordered security forces to arrest Sheikh and his fellow perpetrators, who were subsequently convicted of kidnap and murder charges.

In 2007, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, one of the masterminds of the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, claimed in a closed U.S. military hearing in Guantanamo, Cuba, that he had personally decapitated Pearl.

The matter rested there until April 2, when the Sindh High Court in Karachi, headed by Justice Mohammed Karim Khan Agha, ruled that while Sheikh had been justly convicted of kidnapping, there had not been sufficient evidence to convict him of murder. Sheikh’s sentence was reduced to seven years, but since he has been in jail for 18 years, he and his fellow prisoners are expected to be set free any day now.

The verdict comes in the wake of a 2011 report, compiled by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and Georgetown University’s journalism program, that cast doubt on Sheikh’s conviction. According to their finding, Sheikh and his three assistants were involved in the plot to kidnap Pearl, but were not responsible for murdering him.

Even if this narrative is correct, Sheikh and his accomplices bear ultimate responsibility for Pearl’s death because they abducted and delivered him to purgatory.

Steven Butler, an official at the Committee to Protect Journalists, expressed deep disappointment with the verdict rendered in Karachi. “We urge prosecutors to appeal the decision, which found Ahmed Omar Sheikh guilty only of kidnapping Pearl in a crime that led directly to his murder,” he said in an apt summary of the case.

Sheikh and his fellow conspirators were integral cogs in the machinery of death and must pay a heavy price for their participation in Pearl’s grisly murder. Under no circumstances should they be released, now or ever.

These loathsome criminals richly deserve to spend the rest of their miserable lives behind bars.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal,
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