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Portrait of Daniel Pearl. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the man convicted and later acquitted of beheading American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 should be released.

The state of play: Ahmad Saeed Omar Sheikh — whose death sentence was overturned last year — and three other men who had been sentenced to life in prison for their alleged involvement were ordered to be released. It remains unclear whether they will be freed on Thursday, AP reports.

  • The court also dismissed an appeal of Sheikh's acquittal by Pearl's family.

What they're saying: "The Pearl family is in complete shock by the majority decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to acquit and release Ahmed Omer Sheikh and the other accused persons who kidnapped and killed Daniel Pearl," the Pearl family said in a statement, per AP.

  • "Today’s decision is a complete travesty of justice and the release of these killers puts in danger journalists everywhere and the people of Pakistan."

Flashback: Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was investigating a potential link between Pakistani militants and a British man named Richard Reid, also known as the "show bomber" for his attempt to blow up a Paris flight with explosive devices in his shoes, according to AP.

  • Sheikh had told Pearl he could arrange a meeting with one of the militants. The day of the supposed meeting in January 2002, Pearl was kidnapped and, some time later, beheaded.

The big picture: "What’s at stake is not only justice for Pearl, but the hundreds of journalists killed around the world by Islamist militants in the last two decades," the Columbia Journalism Review wrote in April after Sheikh's sentence was overturned.

  • It is "a devastating setback for justice that would also send a dangerous message to Jihadi militants in Pakistan and around the world, who have systematically targeted journalists in the 18 years since Pearl was killed," CJR added.

Worth noting: The U.S. government had previously said it would demand Sheikh's extradition to be tried in the U.S., but the U.S. Embassy did not respond to his acquittal last year.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Shooting at Michigan high school leaves 3 dead, 8 wounded

Police cars restrict access to Oxford High School following the shooting in Oxford, Michigan, on Tuesday. Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

A 15-year-old sophomore was arrested after a shooting at a Michigan high school that left three people dead and eight others wounded Wednesday, according to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.

The latest: Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said at a briefing Tuesday night that the suspect's father had on Friday bought the 9mm Sig Sauer pistol investigators believe was used in the shooting at Oxford High School. Authorities released the names of the victims late Tuesday.

City Council member Andre Dickens wins Atlanta mayoral race

Atlanta Mayor-elect Andre Dickens in Atlanta, Georgia, late Tuesday. Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images

City Council member Andre Dickens won a runoff election Tuesday to become Atlanta's next mayor, soundly beating the council's president Felicia Moore.

The big picture: Dickens was just a few months ago considered to have an outside chance of replacing Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who announced in May that she wouldn't seek a second term.

UN report: Pandemic set to cost global tourism $2 trillion in 2021

A tourist in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Nov. 25. Photo:Chesnot/Getty Images

A new United Nations report warns that global tourism will see only modest revenue gains in 2021 after last year's historic losses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: Tourism revenues in 2020 fell by more than half from the previous year — a significant blow to the global economy, according to analysis by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).