We found ourselves reeling this week from the very disturbing news about the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s decision to overturn terrorism and murder convictions and release Omar Sheikh and three other men who were involved in the abduction that led to the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl on February 1, 2002. How could this be? How could a country of 220 million people – one purportedly governed by the “rule of law” – bow to the will of extremist elements and acquiesce to such a miscarriage of justice? How do we express our outrage at this act, with all of its dangerous implications, and what do we do to return sanity to Pakistani and international law?
As background, Sheikh and his three accomplices were arrested shortly after Danny’s abduction and murder and were convicted just six months later. They had served 18 years in prison. Now, despite the Pakistan government’s lobbying to keep these men behind bars, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, by a 2-1 vote, freed the four men, who are expected to be released at any time.
The Pearl Family, devastated by these developments, called the Court’s decision “a complete travesty of justice” and suggested that this ruling emboldens extremists and puts journalists and others at risk. The U.S. Government, through White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki, called on the Pakistani government to expeditiously explore legal options, including allowing Sheikh to be sent to the U.S. for trial. “We are committed to securing justice for Daniel Pearl’s family,” she said.
This hits very close to home for us. The Daniel Pearl Education Center was formed just a few months after Danny’s murder and has been dedicated to ensuring his life and legacy remain in our hearts and shared within our communities. Danny’s legacy – building community and understanding and creating harmony through music – has been our raison d’etre for more than 18 years. Like Danny’s father, Dr. Judea Pearl, we are appalled by this decision to free a mastermind and others responsible for what Dr. Pearl called “a crime against humanity, against journalism and against the core of our civilization.”
We appeal to the U.S. Government to use every measure at its disposal to have these individuals extradited to the U.S. to stand on trial for their crimes against an American citizen. We must send a message, loud and clear and worldwide, that this kind of extremism and violence is unacceptable and that true justice will ultimately be served.