- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) Pakistan will try the chief suspect in the kidnapping and slaying of U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl before considering sending him to face charges in the United States, President Pervez Musharraf's spokesman said.

The spokesman, Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi, said Tuesday that the notification had been conveyed formally to the U.S. Embassy, which declined to comment.

The suspect, British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed, was arrested last month before authorities received a video that confirmed Mr. Pearl, the 38-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter, had been killed.

Yesterday, police said a taxi driver who drove Mr. Pearl the night he was kidnapped had identified Saeed as one of the men who approached Mr. Pearl in front of a Karachi restaurant that evening.

Police investigator Manzoor Mughal said the driver, identified only as Nasir, told a magistrate that Saeed stepped out of a white car, shook hands with Mr. Pearl, and asked him to step into the vehicle, in which three other men were sitting.

Saeed admitted in a Feb. 14 court hearing his role in the kidnapping, but his statement is not admissible because it was not made under oath. His trial is expected to begin this month and may last a few weeks.

The Bush administration has sought to extradite Saeed, reportedly on a warrant for the 1994 kidnapping of an American in India who was freed unharmed.

Saeed has not been indicted in the United States in the Pearl case. Pakistani law requires that defendants be tried at home before being handed over to any other country.

Pakistani officials have not ruled out transferring Saeed to the United States eventually if a legal basis can be found. There is no extradition treaty between the two countries.

On Tuesday, a court in Karachi set aside a petition to prevent the hand-over filed by Saeed's wife after government prosecutors promised he would not be sent to the United States "in violation of the law."

Mr. Pearl, the South Asia bureau chief for the Journal, was kidnapped Jan. 23 while researching links between Pakistani extremists and Richard C. Reid, who was arrested in December after being accused of boarding a Paris-Miami flight with explosives in his sneakers.

A tape received Feb. 22 showed Mr. Pearl dead but his body has not been found.

The government's case against Saeed appears based primarily on the statement of accomplice Fahad Naseem, who has said Saeed told him of plans to kidnap someone who was "anti-Islam and a Jew."

Police are looking for several other suspects in the case, including Amjad Hussain Faruqi, the man whom police believe actually abducted and held Mr. Pearl.

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