Pakistan relocates man on death row for Pearl killing

Mon, Aug 03, 2009

KARACHI, PAKISTAN - Pakistani authorities have moved a British-born extremist sentenced to death for the kidnap and killing of US journalist Daniel Pearl to a new prison for security reasons, officials said Monday.

Ahmed Saeed Sheikh, also known as Sheikh Omar, was moved under tight security to the financial capital Karachi from jail in Hyderabad, a city 172 kilometres further east.

Police blamed Pearl's 2002 kidnapping and beheading in the southern city of Karachi on a group of Islamic militants headed by Omar.

He was arrested with three others and convicted in June 2002 of Pearl's murder by an anti-terror court. Seven co-accused were punished in absentia and two of them were later killed in encounters with police.

Court documents said they masterminded Pearl's kidnapping in an attempt to win freedom for Al-Qaeda men locked in Guantanamo Bay.

Omar and three other suspects jailed for life have lodged appeals that have been pending in the southern province of Sindh for seven years.

"He has been shifted to a Karachi jail for security reasons," said Alauddin Abbasi, deputy inspector general of prisons in Sindh.

"The situation in Hyderabad jail has deteriorated, thus we decided to move him to Karachi," Abbasi told AFP, referring to a recent revolt by prisoners in which they took 24 jail wardens hostage.

A senior prison official in Karachi, Mumtaz Burney, confirmed that Sheikh had been moved to the southern port city's central prison.

It is second time in three years that Sheikh has been moved to Karachi from Hyderabad.

In 2006, he was shifted to protect him from two or three dangerous prisoners in Hyderabad jail on the recommendation of security agencies.

Pearl, 38, was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted in Karachi on January 23, 2002 while researching a story about Islamist militants.

A graphic video showing his decapitation was delivered to the US consulate in the city nearly a month later.