- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Police braced for a spasm of violence after an extraordinary anti-terrorism court yesterday handed down the death sentence to British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed for his part in the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
The case is likely to drag through the nation's judicial system for at least several years.
Also convicted as participants in the murder were three other men, Farhad Naseem, Sheikh Adil and Salman Saquib. They were each sentenced to life imprisonment a sentence that in Pakistan usually means at least 25 years in jail.
Saeed, who remained defiant after the sentence, issued a statement hinting that Islamic terrorists would strike back at Pakistani authorities before his execution was carried out.
Rai Bashir, the bearded lawyer who defended Saeed during the 10-week trial, read the statement to reporters outside the courthouse in the Hyderabad jail compound, some 80 miles northeast of Karachi.
"Sheik Omar said that we shall see who shall die first," Mr. Bashir said, "I, or the authorities who have raised the death sentence for me."
In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States was "gratified by the verdict rendered in Pakistan for the brutal murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. This is an important step in bringing to justice the perpetrators of this vicious crime."
Asked if the United States would continue to insist that Pakistan extradite the convicted killers, Mr. Boucher said it will depend on the outcome of the Pakistani political process.
Pressed further, Mr. Boucher said, "We'll have to see how things turn out."
Mr. Pearl's kidnappers, calling themselves the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, were believed to be linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. Saeed and his co-defendants were brought to the courthouse in an armored police van, and stood in heavy chains as the sentence was handed down.
The death sentence in Pakistan is usually carried out by hanging but was not expected to happen immediately.
Mr. Bashir was expected to appeal the verdict and sentence, and the case could make its way through the legal system to the Supreme Court, perhaps dragging on for another two years.
Pakistani authorities said they were putting police on the highest security alert.
"We are taking extraordinary measures," said Hyderabad police chief Abdur Rauf Yusafzai. "We are on red alert." Similar measures were being taken in Karachi, he said.
Brig. Nisar Mehr, the Hyderabad prison chief, said police snipers were placed on rooftops on all houses in the vicinity of the jail. Cell phones, often used by terrorists in coordinating attacks, were banned from the court premises and the prison compound.
The anti-terrorist court where Saeed and his co-defendants were tried originally was in Karachi, but was later moved for security reasons to the Hyderabad jail compound.
Mr. Pearl was abducted in Karachi on Jan. 23 while researching a story on Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan. His abductors later e-mailed photographs of him in captivity with a gun held to his head. They demanded the release of al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners being held in Cuba, saying they would release Mr. Pearl if their demands were met.
Less than a month after the kidnapping, however, the terrorists released a gruesome video showing the reporter's murder. His body was never found, though investigators say they found human remains believed to be from Mr. Pearl's body.
Pakistani authorities were still waiting for DNA tests to confirm the human remains were Mr. Pearl's. They were unable to produce that evidence in court.
Instead, the conviction was based on statements Saeed made to police after his arrest. He later withdrew the statements, but the court also heard testimony from a taxi driver who said he had seen Saeed with Mr. Pearl the night before he was kidnapped.
Mr. Pearl's family said in a statement after the sentence was handed down that they were grateful to Pakistani and U.S. authorities for their efforts in bringing the kidnappers to justice.
However, Pakistani police are still searching for other suspects believed linked to the kidnapping and murder. On June 29, authorities in Karachi said they were looking for a man named Asif Ramzi in connection with the murder. Police are offering a reward equivalent to $50,000 for information leading to his arrest.
Investigators are also looking for a man named Saud Memon, whose home in a north Karachi suburb was used as a safe house for the terrorists who kidnapped Mr. Pearl.
Over the weekend, Pakistani newspapers received an e-mail statement purporting to be from Ramzi, vowing that more attacks against foreigners in Pakistan would occur.


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