A Pakistani court has overturned the murder conviction of a British Pakistani man found guilty of the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street journalist Daniel Pearl.
Instead, the court found Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh guilty of the lesser charge of kidnapping and sentenced him to seven years in jail.
One of his lawyers, Khwaja Naveed, said he could go free unless the government chooses to challenge the court decision.
Sheikh has already spent 18 years on death row in southern Hyderabad. It is expected that the seven-year sentence will be counted as time served, said Naveed.
Sindh High Court also acquitted three others accused in the case – Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib – who were earlier sentenced to life in prison.
“Justice has been done to my clients,” said Naveed.
Pearl (pictured) disappeared in Karachi in 2002 while researching links between Pakistani militants and shoe bomber Richard Reid, who was arrested in December 2001 on a flight from Paris to Miami.
Sheikh, a former student at the London School of Economics, and the others were convicted in 2002.
The defendants were also collectively fined 32,000 dollars. At the time, chief prosecutor Raja Quereshi said the money would go to Pearl’s widow Mariane and their infant son, who was born after his father was killed.
Seven more suspects were never arrested.
Prosecutors said Sheikh lured Pearl into a trap by promising to arrange an interview with an Islamic cleric who police believe was not involved in the conspiracy.
A videotape received by US diplomats confirmed that Pearl, 38, was dead.