- The Washington Times - Friday, March 15, 2002

A federal grand jury yesterday indicted Muslim extremist Ahmed Omar Saeed in the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, whose death was captured on videotape.
Attorney General John Ashcroft, who announced the indictment at a Justice Department press conference, said the government would seek to extradite Saeed from Pakistan to stand trial in this country. Now in custody in Pakistan, Saeed faces the death penalty if convicted in the United States.
"We are signaling our clear interest in trying him on these charges and in bringing him to justice in the United States," Mr. Ashcroft said.
The decision to press forward in the case came after weeks of discussions by officials at the White House, the Justice Department and the State Department about how best to proceed. U.S. officials also have talked with Pakistani authorities about bringing Saeed and others to stand trial in this country.
The United States and Pakistan have no formal extradition agreement, but Pakistan has sent other suspects here under a less-formal procedure known as "rendering."
Mr. Ashcroft said the decision to seek the indictment now was driven, in part, by concern that Saeed might be released.
"We think it's important to have charges in place if, for some reason, he would be in any way released," he said. "We are collaborating with the Pakistanis and informing them of our interest. They have him in custody, and we don't."
Yesterday's indictment accused Saeed of hostage-taking and conspiracy to commit hostage-taking that resulted in Mr. Pearl's death.
Mr. Ashcroft said Saeed "methodically set a death trap for Daniel Pearl, lured him into it with lies and savagely ended his life," but he predicted that the government's vigorous prosecution of the case would send a clear message to terrorists who both despise and fear Americans' freedom.
"Where freedom is feared, men and women like Daniel Pearl will always be hunted, but where freedom is cherished they will be forever defended," he said.
The two-count indictment said Saeed and others "did knowingly and willfully seize, detain and threaten to kill, injure and continue to detain Daniel Pearl, a United States national, in order to compel the United States government to do and abstain from doing certain acts."
The indictment, handed up by a federal grand jury in Trenton, N.J., also accused Saeed of being a member of a "radical militant organization" and said he had "trained in military camps in Afghanistan." It also said that in September and October 2001, he fought in Afghanistan with members of al Qaeda terrorist network and the then-ruling Taliban regime.
Prosecutors believe Mr. Pearl had already been killed when those who kidnapped him threatened in an e-mail on Jan. 30 to kill him within 24 hours unless their demands were met. The exact date of Mr. Pearl's death is not known. A videotape showing him decapitated was delivered to U.S. officials in Pakistan and is being examined by the FBI.
According to the indictment, Saeed organized the kidnapping of Mr. Pearl as a hostage in an effort to affect U.S. government policies after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Mr. Ashcroft also revealed a sealed indictment that last year charged Saeed in a 1994 kidnapping of an American in India. In that case, he is accused of conspiring to commit hostage-taking, hostage-taking, and aiding and abetting in connection with the kidnapping of Bela J. Nuss, who was held for 12 days before being rescued.
Mr. Pearl was abducted in the Pakistani port city of Karachi on Jan. 23 as he tried to contact Islamic militant groups to investigate possible connections between shoe-bombing suspect Richard C. Reid and al Qaeda, founded by fugitive terrorist Osama bin Laden.
The reporter's grisly death was recorded on a video that surfaced last month in Pakistan. Pakistani authorities have arrested four suspects in connection with the case, including Saeed.
Mr. Pearl leaves behind a widow, Marina, who is about to give birth to their first child. Mr. Ashcroft met privately yesterday in his office with Mrs. Pearl.
"The U.S. has not forsaken your husband nor the values he embodied and cherished," Mr. Ashcroft said in addressing his comments to Mrs. Pearl. "The story he died trying to tell will be told, and justice will be done."
Mr. Ashcroft said the FBI was continuing its investigation into the Pearl killing and that others believed to be part of the conspiracy were being pursued.
The indictment was sought by federal prosecutors in New Jersey because Saeed is accused of sending e-mails under an alias, "Chaudrey Bashir," to Mr. Pearl that were relayed electronically through the Journal's computer network in South Brunswick, N.J. The Journal's corporate headquarters of Dow Jones & Co. Inc., which publishes the Wall Street Journal, is in South Brunswick.
A spokesman for Dow Jones & Co. said, "This is a matter for the justice authorities in the United States and Pakistan."


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