Trial of 4 suspects in Pearl killing begins

Judge orders 7 arrests in death of U.S. reporter

April 06, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

KARACHI, Pakistan - The trial of four men accused in the kidnapping and killing of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, began yesterday with an hour of legal maneuvering and then was adjourned for a week.

The chief defendant, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, 28, dressed in white and with his beard neatly trimmed, stood impassively behind a wall of iron bars as his lawyer demanded more documents and the judge issued a warrant for the arrest of seven missing defendants, said two of the lawyers.

Reporters were kept from the trial, which was held under tight security inside the city's Central Prison, where the men are detained.

If the seven other defendants, who have eluded the police for weeks, are not caught by Friday next week, the lawyers said, they might be tried in absentia. The fugitives are believed to include the men who carried out the killing.

Pearl disappeared Jan. 23 while researching possible links between Pakistani militants and Richard D. Reid, a Briton arrested in December and accused of trying to set off a bomb in his shoe on an airliner.

News agencies then received e-mailed ransom messages along with photographs of Pearl in custody. A graphic videotape showing the killing was delivered to the U.S. Consulate in Karachi on Feb. 21.

Part of the government's case is based on an admission by Fahad Naseem that he had sent the e-mails - which were later traced by the FBI - on Saeed's orders.

The United States has sought the extradition of Saeed, who was indicted for the kidnapping and killing of Pearl by a federal grand jury in New Jersey last month. His extradition had already been requested in connection with a secret indictment in the kidnapping of an American in India in 1994.

But President Pervez Musharraf said last week that Saeed would first have to be tried and then serve any sentence in Pakistan. Saeed and the other defendants could face the death penalty.

The atmosphere of legal routine was broken yesterday when defendant Salman Saqib shouted, "`I was beaten and hung upside down four times,'" according to his lawyer, Khawaja Naveed Ahmed. He claimed he had been struck in the face and beaten with a shoe.

Saeed's lawyer, Abdul Waheed Katpar, said Saqib then pulled up his shirt to display marks that he said were the result of beatings. "He was very much upset, as if he was crying," the lawyer said.

The other two defendants, Naseem and Sheikh Mohammed Adeel, remained silent.

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