File photo of deceased Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
'The murder charges were not proven, so he has given seven years for the kidnapping,' the lawyer told media.
A Pakistan court on Thursday commuted the death sentence of the prime accused in the 2002 kidnapping and murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Ahmed Omer Saeed Sheikh will now serve seven years in prison, as per the Sindh High Court's verdict.
The other three convicts - Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil - who were earlier handed life sentences were acquitted in the case.
"The court has commuted Omar's death sentence to a seven-year sentence," news agency Reuters quoted Khawaja Naveed, the defence lawyer as saying.
"The murder charges were not proven, so he has given seven years for the kidnapping," he added.
"Omar has already served 18 years, so his release orders will be issued sometime today. He will be out in a few days," Naveed also said.
Daniel Pearl, South Asia Bureau Chief for the US-based Wall Street Journal, was investigating Islamist militants in Karachi after September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States when he was kidnapped in January 2002. He was later beheaded by terrorists in Pakistan.
At least four people were convicted in connection with Pearl's murder, including British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was sentenced to death in 2002 for masterminding the murder. He has been in jail for 18 years awaiting the outcome of an appeal.
Sheikh, who was born in Britain and studied at the London School of Economics, was arrested in India in the 1990s for his involvement in the kidnapping of western tourists in 1994.
He was one of three men released from an Indian prison after militants hijacked an Indian airliner in late 1999 and flew it to Afghanistan, where the then-ruling Taliban regime helped negotiate an exchange with the Indian government officials.
(With inputs from agencies)