- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002

Police in Karachi have arrested four men who will be charged with killing American journalist Daniel Pearl, Pakistani security officials said.

Four men convicted last month of Mr. Pearl's murder were guilty of his kidnapping but turned him over to the recently arrested men before he was killed, the officials added in a telephone interview from Washington.

They said the government is reluctant to announce the arrests because it fears that the disclosure at this stage may force a retrial of the earlier case.

The new suspects, arrested last month, belong to an organization called Lashkar-i-Jhangvi whose leader, Akram Lahori, is believed to have revealed the identity of the suspects under interrogation in Karachi.

"We know that they killed Pearl, but we do not want to say so yet. We do not want a retrial of the earlier case," a senior security official said.

An anti-terrorism court in Hyderabad convicted four men of kidnapping and murdering Mr. Pearl in July. Chief suspect Ahmad Omar Saeed was sentenced to death, and three others were sent to jail for life.

One security official said the conviction of Saeed and his accomplices need not be affected by the new arrests because under Pakistan's anti-terrorism laws, kidnapping or aiding kidnappers, or involvement in similar terrorist activities is punishable by death or life imprisonment.

"We do not believe that the conviction of [Saeed] and his three accomplices is unjust," another security official said. "But a major disclosure, like the arrest of four suspects for the murder, is bound to cause a retrial, and we want to avoid this.

"The trial was already a nightmare," he said. "Throughout the trial the suspects kept on threatening our officers. We do not want to go through this again."

The official said the police have collected enough evidence to prove that the four new suspects are responsible for killing Mr. Pearl after Saeed and his gang abducted him.

The officials described Saeed and a man convicted with him, Shaik Adil, as "hardened militants" but said the other two Salman Saquib and Fahad Nasim got involved because they were related to Adil.

Now police believe that Saeed masterminded and carried out the abduction, but that the killing was done by Akrem Lahori and an accomplice, Ataur Rahman. Both are in police custody.

Police say Lahori and his colleagues, who are blamed for scores of targeted sectarian killings, are linked to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.

Mr. Pearl, who was the South Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, disappeared in Karachi on Jan. 23 while researching potential links between Muslim militants in Pakistan and Richard C. Reid, who was arrested in December on a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives in his shoes.

In e-mails sent to Pakistani and Western news outlets, Mr. Pearl's kidnappers identified themselves as members of a previously unknown group called the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. The group demanded better treatment for Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In February, the U.S. Consulate in Karachi received a videotape confirming Mr. Pearl's death.

Saeed and his co-defendants have denied involvement in the kidnapping and accused the prosecution of fabricating charges against them to appease the United States. They have already filed appeals against the conviction.

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