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UK urges leniency for Pearl killer

Saeed Sheikh pictured arriving at court in Hyderabad earlier this year
Saeed Sheikh pictured arriving at court in Hyderabad earlier this year  

LONDON, England -- The UK government says it opposes the death sentence handed down to a British-born man convicted in Pakistan for the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Former London School of Economics student Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, believed to be the mastermind of Pearl's kidnapping death, was convicted on Monday along with three other Islamic radicals of kidnapping for ransom and acts of terror, defence lawyers said.

The three accomplices received life sentences, said the lawyers, who plan to appeal against the verdict. (Full story)

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Pearl disappeared in January while researching a story in Karachi about Pakistani militants and suspected shoe bomber Richard Reid.

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.

The UK Foreign Office said on Monday it welcomed the conviction, but not the sentence. "Although we support suspected terrorists being brought to justice it is well known that we oppose the death penalty in all circumstances," a spokesman told the Press Association.

"The Pakistani authorities are already well aware of our position on this issue."

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will go to Pakistan on Saturday after visiting India on Friday, the spokesman added.

The death penalty in Pakistan is traditionally carried out by hanging.

Defence lawyer Mohsin Imam said: "The sentence is definitely unjust and harsh. We hope that the appeal court will turn off the sentence."

A spokesman for the Wall Street Journal welcomed the verdict.

"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.

"Today's verdict is one step in that direction."


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