Man condemned in Pearl slaying calls for revenge

3 others get life terms for killing U.S. reporter

Pakistan security tight

July 16, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

HYDERABAD, Pakistan - With security heavy and officials bracing for a retaliatory attack, the man condemned to death yesterday for the kidnapping and murder of American reporter Daniel Pearl called on fellow Muslims to take revenge for the sentence.

"We shall see who will die first - either I or the authorities who arranged the death sentence for me," the condemned man, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, 28, said in a statement read by one of his lawyers here after the sentence was handed down.

"The war between Islam and nonbelievers is going on, and everyone should show whether he is in favor of Islam or in favor of nonbelievers," the statement said, as Islamic groups in Pakistan expressed outrage at the verdict.

Saeed, a British-born former student at the London School of Economics, was one of four men convicted yesterday morning on charges that included murder, kidnapping and terrorism. He was the only one sentenced to death. His lawyers said he would appeal the sentence, which would be carried out by hanging.

The other defendants, Salman Saqib, Fahad Naseem and Shaikh Adil, were sentenced to life in prison. That usually means 25 years, though several lawyers said the actual time could be much less.

With the potential for violence very real, the verdicts were handed down by Judge Ali Ashraf Shah under extraordinary security. Six hundred police officers were stationed at the prison in Hyderabad, where most of the three-month trial took place, including sharpshooters on the roof. An additional 2,000 were posted around the city.

In Karachi, Pakistan's largest city and the place where Pearl disappeared Jan. 23, police vehicles and elite soldiers patrolled the streets last night and posted themselves in front of consulates.

"Terrorists, they've got hideous designs," said Moazzam Ansari, the chief of police in Hyderabad.

Ansari outlined possible terrorist threats, saying: "It could be toxins, it could be water contamination, it could be a car bomb. It could be an attempt to break the prison."

Several of the convicted men's lawyers said that the verdict was influenced by Pakistan's embattled military leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who was under pressure from the United States, with which he is cooperating against terrorism.

"Pakistan wants to please America," said Rai Bashir, a defense lawyer.

The prosecutor, Raja Qureshi, denied that, saying: "It was absolutely a fair trial. No political influences." But the accusations, widely believed here, seemed to add to Musharraf's troubles.

His partnership with the United States is unpopular, viewed by many as an alliance with the West against Muslims. His recent proposals to amend the constitution - part of what he says are plans to return Pakistan to democracy - brought so much criticism that he felt obliged last week to defend them in a televised speech.

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