Pakistan's top court on Thursday ordered the release of Omar Saeed Sheikh, prime accused in the murder case of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
In a brief order, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal of the provincial government against the earlier verdict of the Sindh High Court.
Pearl, a former South Asia bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped in January 2002 and killed after a month in the southern port city of Karachi.
His dismembered body was found on the northern outskirts of Karachi four months after his disappearance.
In April last year, the high court acquitted UK-born Sheikh and three others and ordered their release. However, the Pakistani government, citing "public safety" concerns kept them in detention.
Last December, the high court set aside the government's detention orders and ordered the “immediate” release of the four men. But they were placed on a “no-fly” list and asked to appear before the court whenever summoned.
The four men – Sheikh, Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib, and Sheikh Adil – were found guilty of the abduction and beheading of the American journalist in Pakistan.
In June 2002, an anti-terrorism court sentenced Sheikh to death and the other three to life.
However, nearly 18 years after their conviction, the high court acquitted all the defendants, declaring that the prosecution had failed to prove the case against them.
In 2011, an investigative report by Georgetown University in the US claimed that Sheikh and the other three accused had been wrongly convicted for Pearl's murder.
The investigation led by Pearl's colleague, Asra Nomani, who had accompanied him during his Pakistan visit, claimed that the actual man behind his abduction and beheading was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US.
Mohammed, who was arrested by Pakistani security forces and handed over to the US in 2003, is currently awaiting trial at the American detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Source: Anadolu Agency