Pearl murder convict moved

2009-08-03 18:03

Hyderabad, Pakistan - A British-born Islamist militant sentenced to death for the killing of US journalist Daniel Pearl has been moved to a prison in Karachi due to concerns over his security, officials said on Monday.

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, or Sheikh Omar, was sentenced to death in 2002 for his role in the killing of Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped in Karachi in January 2002 while researching a story on Islamist militants. Pearl was later found beheaded.

Sheikh Omar, once an undergraduate student at the London School of Economics, was being kept at the central prison in Hyderabad, a city 160km north of the southern city of Karachi, before being moved on Sunday.

"He has been transferred to Karachi due to some security concerns," Allaudin Abbasi, the deputy inspector general of prisons in Hyderabad, told Reuters.

He did not elaborate. But other officials said the security situation at the Hyderabad prison had deteriorated recently, and that prisoners took 24 jail wardens hostage last month.

The worsening security situation had already forced authorities to move Salman Saqib, who was sentenced to life in the Pearl case, to another prison in Hyderabad after a scuffle with other inmates, they said.

Sheikh Omar, Saqib and two other co-accused facing life sentences have appealed to the Sindh High Court against their conviction.

The government itself has appealed to the same court, asking for tougher sentences for Saqib and the other two co-accused.

But court hearings have been repeatedly postponed, mostly because of the absence of lawyers representing the convicts.

Under Pakistani law, a convict has the right to appeal in superior courts but no case can be heard if one of the lawyers of the convict is absent.

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