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On the eve of Daniel Pearl’s 19th yahrtzeit, his kidnappers are set to go free

Four men who were involved in the kidnapping and murder of Jewish American journalist Daniel Pearl are set to be released by Pakistani authorities. The news comes just days before the nineteenth anniversary of the event.

Their release comes after a court in Pakistan’s Sindh province vacated the men’s murder convictions last year for their part in the death of Pearl. Omar Saeed Sheikh, the British national who had been deemed the mastermind behind the plot, had his death sentence commuted and his co-conspirators had their life sentences reduced to seven years for the kidnapping, which the court ruled they have already served.

Pearl was murdered in Pakistan on February 1, 2002. At the time, he was the South Asia Bureau Chief for The Wall Street Journal, tracking down a lead on Richard Reid, the so-called “shoe bomber.”

Pearl was taken captive in downtown Karachi, a city in southern Pakistan. He was held captive for nine days before being beheaded on camera. Among his last words were “My father’s Jewish, my mother’s Jewish, I’m Jewish.” They were revealed in a video his assailants released titled “The Slaughter of the Spy-Journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl.”

His killers and kidnappers were captured shortly after his death.

In December, the Sindh court issued an order calling for their release, citing that their continued detention – nine months after their acquittal – was illegal under Pakistani law.

U.S. officials have strongly opposed the release and, in a December statement, the Justice department stated that, “The United States stands ready to take custody of Omar Sheikh to stand trial here. We cannot allow him to evade justice for his role in Daniel Pearl’s abduction and murder.”

Pearl’s father, Judea Pearl, also spoke out over the Pakistani court’s ruling, and voiced his support for U.S. extradition of Sheikh.

While the men are still set to go free, CNN reported that at the close of business in Pakistan on Thursday, they still remained in custody.

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