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White House outraged at decision to release man convicted in Daniel Pearl murder

The White House on Thursday expressed outrage at the decision by Pakistan’s Supreme Court to free the men convicted in the kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.

“The United States is outraged by the Pakistani Supreme Court’s decision to affirm the acquittals of those responsible for Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and brutal murder, which shocked the world’s conscience in 2002,” White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiWhite House sends mixed message on higher taxes The Memo: Biden's five biggest foreign policy challenges Biden eyes bigger US role in global vaccination efforts MORE told reporters. 

The White House calls “on the Pakistani government to expeditiously review its legal options, including allowing the United States to prosecute [Ahmad Saeed Omar] Sheikh for the brutal murder of an American citizen and journalist and we are committed to securing justice for Daniel Pearl’s family and holding terrorists anywhere accountable for their heinous crimes,” Psaki added.

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Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenBlinken to return to Brussels to discuss Russia, Ukraine tensions Blinken warns it would be a 'serious mistake' for Taiwan's status to be changed 'by force' Blinken: China 'didn't do what it needed to do' in early stages of pandemic MORE added that the U.S. is “prepared to prosecute Sheikh in the United States for his horrific crimes against an American citizen.” 

Monty Wilkinson, the acting attorney general, also issued a statement reiterating that “the United States stands ready to take custody of Sheikh to stand trial here on the pending charges against him.” 

The Pakistani court earlier Thursday ordered the release of Sheikh, who was arrested in 2002 and convicted of orchestrating Pearl’s kidnapping and murder. The court also upheld a lower court ruling that overturned Sheikh’s convictions as well as those of three additional men connected to Pearl’s kidnapping and murder. Pakistan’s Supreme Court also ordered those men free on Thursday.

Pearl was reporting for the Wall Street Journal on the British terrorist known as the “shoe bomber” when he was abducted in the Pakistani city of Karachi in 2002. His beheading was later filmed and a video of it sent to U.S. officials. The killing attracted international attention and outrage at the time.

Sheikh was among four men convicted of kidnapping and murdering Pearl and was awaiting the death penalty. A lower court overturned the convictions in April and shortened Sheikh’s sentence. The court subsequently ordered the men to be set free in December but Pearl’s family and Pakistani authorities appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

The Pearl family in a statement released by their lawyer called the decision a “complete travesty of justice” and urged the U.S. government “to take all necessary actions under the law to correct this injustice,” according to the Wall Street Journal.