- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 23, 2002

KARACHI, Pakistan One hundred police with automatic weapons ringed the Karachi courthouse yesterday as prosecutors charged a British-educated Islamic militant and 10 accomplices with the kidnap-murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Seven of the suspects remain at large. All face the death penalty if convicted.
Chief prosecutor Raja Quereshi accused prime suspect Ahmed Omar Saeed and 10 others of murder, kidnapping and terrorism.
The decision to charge Saeed in Pakistan will complicate efforts to have him stand trial in the United States. American prosecutors might have to wait for the case to play out in Pakistani courts a process that could take years if appeals are filed.
Neither the body of the slain 38-year-old reporter nor the weapon has been found.
"We have circumstantial evidence and also the videotape of Daniel Pearl's murder," Mr. Quereshi told reporters after presenting the charges in a closed-door hearing. "We will present that, too, as evidence."
The court will reconvene Friday, when the judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to accept the charges. Once that step is taken, the trial would begin immediately.
Saeed and co-defendant Mohammed Adeel were taken to court in an armored car escorted by two dozen police vans mounted with machine guns. The other two suspects in custody, Fahad Naseem and Salman Saqib, did not attend the court session.
Saeed is the key suspect in the Jan. 23 kidnapping of Mr. Pearl, who was the Journal's South Asia bureau chief. The son of a clothing merchant, Saeed is believed to have links to Jaish-e-Mohammed the Army of the Prophet Mohammed a radical group banned last month by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
U.S. Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin has appealed to Gen. Musharraf to hand over Saeed to the United States for trial.
Saeed confessed in court last month that he abducted Mr. Pearl, but has since withdrawn the statement. Since it had not been made under oath, the statement is considered inadmissible.
The case against Saeed relies heavily on the testimony of taxi driver Nasir Abbas, who told police he drove Mr. Pearl to a restaurant in Karachi the night the reporter disappeared. Mr. Abbas also said he saw Mr. Pearl shake hands with Saeed.
Other evidence includes e-mails that showed photographs of Mr. Pearl in chains, which were traced to three of the defendants, and a videotape received by the U.S. Consulate in Karachi that proved Mr. Pearl had been slain. Mr. Quereshi said he would call 31 witnesses, including FBI agents, to bolster his case.
Naveed Ahmed, the attorney for the three accomplices in custody, has said the government's case was fabricated.
Mr. Ahmed said he would move to have two of his clients retract their confessions, arguing the men were tortured.
"The charges presented by the prosecution are very weak," he said.
A U.S. federal grand jury in New Jersey on March 14 indicted Saeed in Mr. Pearl's death. Since the kidnapping resulted in the reporter's murder, Saeed could face the death penalty if brought to the United States and handed a conviction.
The case is seen as a test of Pakistan's commitment to crack down on Islamic militants as part of its allegiance to the war on terrorism. Violence has surged in this South Asian country of 147 million since Gen. Musharraf announced the crackdown on Jan. 12.


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