The four men jailed in Pakistan for the 2002 kidnapping and beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl are set to walk free. British national Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh has been awaiting the outcome of an appeal since he was sentenced to death for murder, terrorism, and kidnapping for ransom in 2002. It came Thursday, with a Karachi court overturning the murder and terrorism convictions—US authorities say alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed admitted while housed at Guantanamo Bay in 2007 to killing the journalist five years earlier, though his confession wasn't part of the appeal—and downgraded the final charge to kidnapping, reports the Journal. Sheikh, 46, was "given seven years for the kidnapping" but "has already served 18 years, so ... he will be out in a few days," defense lawyer Khawaja Naveed Ahmed says, per the Guardian.
The three co-accused, Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil, and Salman Saqib, who were serving life sentences, were acquitted by the high court of Sindh province, per the AP. "Most of the evidence against these men was not collected, but created," Ahmed tells the Journal. Faiz Shah, the provincial prosecutor general, says he will "probably" appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, per the Guardian. Testimony from the 2002 trial indicated Pearl was duped by Sheikh, who'd offered to introduce him to a cleric. The journalist investigating religious extremism was instead taken to a compound and beheaded, as seen in a video shared online. A three-year investigation by journalists at Georgetown University implicated Mohammed in the killing, though he hasn't been charged. (Read more Daniel Pearl stories.)