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Probe uncovers problems in Pearl case

Says Pakistani authorities ‘used perjured testimony,’ ignored leads

- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pakistani authorities "knowingly used perjured testimony" and failed to pursue other leads in convicting four men of the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, according to a report based on a 3½-year probe of the case.

According to the Pearl Project, an investigation by U.S. journalists and students, the four men who were convicted of killing Mr. Pearl had taken part in his kidnapping but weren't present at his beheading.

Forensic evidence from the videotaped killing supports the confession of al Qaeda official Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), the presumed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attack, as having decapitated Mr. Pearl, the report notes. Mr. Mohammed is being held at the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

What's more, 14 of 27 people who were involved in kidnapping and murdering Mr. Pearl remain at large, the Pearl Project report states.

The project was led by Mr. Pearl's friend and colleague, Asra Q. Nomani, and Barbara Feinman Todd, director of the journalism program at Georgetown University. The investigation's report was published by the Center for Public Integrity.

Mr. Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan, in January 2002, and a videotape of his murder was delivered to U.S. officials in Pakistan in February 2002.

FBI agents and CIA officials used a technique called "vein-matching" to compare the killer's hands, as seen in the video, with a photograph of Mr. Mohammed's hands.

"I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew Daniel Pearl in the city of Karachi," he declared at a 2007 detention hearing.

Federal officials decided not to charge Mr. Mohammed with Mr. Pearl's murder because they felt it would complicate their case against him since his confession was obtained between sessions of waterboarding.

"It's entirely plausible that he was responsible for Pearl's murder, and the fact that he'd brag about his involvement tells you what kind of garbage this guy is, as well as the nature of our nation's al Qaeda enemies," a U.S. counterterrorism official told The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity.

The high-profile execution apparently angered al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

"One of the high value detainees [held at Guantanamo Bay] told interrogators that Osama bin Laden was angry that KSM had slaughtered Pearl so publicly and brutally, arguing that the murder brought unnecessary attention on the network," Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo Bay military commissions, told the Pearl Project.

Some U.S. and Pakistani officials believe that Mr. Mohammed's nephews, Musaad Aruchi and Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, assisted him in the execution.

Mr. Aruchi's whereabouts are not known, but Mr. Ali is being held at Guantanamo Bay.

The report says that U.S. and Pakistani investigators chased the wrong suspect in the Pearl case, allowing the journalist's killers to flee. Pakistani authorities also let a key informant, Fazal Karim, go free and failed to follow other leads, it adds.

A Pakistani official, who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity since the case is still in the courts, said Pakistani authorities will share the report's findings with the court and other agencies in Pakistan.

"We did complete our investigations and Omar Sheikh was convicted. There are a number of pending appeals," the Pakistani official said. "This report may provide some supportive evidence."

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