ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s top court on Thursday adjourned for four weeks the hearing of an appeal from the family of American journalist Daniel Pearl against the acquittal of a British-born Pakistani man convicted over the 2002 beheading of the Wall Street Journal reporter.

The key suspect in Pearl’s slaying, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and three other accomplices were sentenced to life in prison for their role in the plot. But a lower Pakistani court in April acquitted him, a move that stunned the U.S. government, Pearl’s family and journalism advocacy groups.

The acquittal is now being appealed separately by the government and Pearl’s family, a process that under Pakistani law could take years. The government has opposed Sheikh’s release, saying it would endanger the public. He is to remain in custody until the appeals are resolved.

Thursday’s adjournment came due to the absence from court of government lawyer Farooq Naek, who was unwell, and following the request of Sheikh’s defense lawyer.

Faisal Siddiqi, who is representing Pearl’s family, said he was surprised by the four week adjournment, saying he had asked for an expeditious handling of the case.