Pearl killer calls for uprising
Dead reporter's family welcomes verdict
HYDERABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The British-born Islamic militant convicted of the kidnapping and slaying of U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl has lashed out at his death sentence and threatened retaliation by calling for a Muslim uprising.
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was sentenced by an anti-terrorism court in the southern city of Hyderabad, 160 kilometres (100 miles) northeast of Karachi, on Monday. Three accomplices received life sentences on charges of conspiracy, kidnapping for ransom, murder and the disruption of evidence.
"I will see whether who wants to kill me will first kill me or get himself killed," Saeed Sheikh said in a statement released through an attorney.
"It is decisive war between Islam and Kafir [infidels or non-Muslims] and everyone is individually proving on which side he is."
Defense attorneys said they plan to appeal the verdict within seven days.
"The sentence is definitely unjust and harsh," said assistant defense attorney Mohsin Imam. "We hope that the appeal court will turn off the sentence."
Saeed Sheikh -- also known as Sheikh Omar -- is believed to be the mastermind behind the kidnapping death of the Wall Street Journal reporter earlier this year. The death penalty in Pakistan is traditionally carried out by hanging.
Police are still searching for at least a half dozen other suspects in the Pearl case.
While the hunt for them goes on, there is concern that other Islamic militants may lash out with some type of act of terrorism in response to the guilty verdict.
The court ruling was welcomed by Pearl's family through a statement on their Web site which thanked Pakistani and U.S. authorities for their "tireless efforts" to bring Pearl's attackers to justice.
"Today's verdict is the first chapter in this process," the statement from Pearl's parents, wife, and sisters said.
"We hope and trust that the search for the remaining abductors and murderers will continue, so that all accomplices in this unthinkable crime will be brought to justice." (Statement)
A spokesman for the Wall Street Journal said the conviction was a step in the right direction.
"We continue to mourn Danny Pearl and we continue to hope that everyone responsible for his kidnapping and murder will be brought to justice," said Steven Goldstein, Vice President of Dow Jones & Co.
The UK government says it too welcomes the verdict but not the death sentence handed down to Saeed Sheikh.
"Although we support suspected terrorists being brought to justice it is well known that we oppose the death penalty in all circumstances," a Foreign Office spokesman told the Press Association.
"The Pakistani authorities are already well aware of our position on this issue." (Full story)
But Sheikh Aslam, brother of one of the accomplices, Sheikh Adil, told Reuters news agency:
"Pakistanis and Muslims should now rise up because the government has bent its knees before America." (Full story)
Pearl disappeared in January while researching a story in Karachi about Pakistani militants and suspected shoe bomber Richard Reid.
A few days after Pearl disappeared, the previously unknown National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty announced his kidnapping in e-mails to U.S. and Pakistani news organizations. Photographs of Pearl were attached.
A videotape of the reporter's killing was sent to U.S. officials in February. A body believed to be that of Pearl's was found in May. Police said the identification would be possible after DNA test results are released.
Three of the men were arrested after the FBI and police traced the e-mails to a laptop computer that belonged to one of them, Fahad Naseem.
Naseem confessed and said Saeed Sheikh told him three days before the kidnapping that he planned to abduct someone who is "anti-Islam and a Jew." (Timeline)
Air India hijack
Saeed Sheikh was arrested in February in the eastern city of Lahore.
He is currently under indictment by U.S. courts for kidnapping charges of American tourists in South Asia.
He was in prison in India until he was released in exchange for hostages during a hijacking of an Air India flight that ended up in Afghanistan New Years Eve 1999.
Saeed Sheikh was reported to have slipped into Pakistan after the hijacking and surfaced when he was arrested and charged with Pearl's kidnapping and murder.
He is said to have had strong links to Muslim fundamentalist groups since he dropped out of the London School of Economics in 1993.
-- CNN Correspondent Tom Mintier in Islamabad and Islamabad Bureau Chief Ash-har Quraishi contributed to this report
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