Archive for Sunday, May 19, 2002

Lawyer: Chief suspect in Pearl slaying denies ties to body recovered in Karachi

May 19, 2002


— The chief suspect in the slaying of Daniel Pearl denied any connection to a body found in Karachi this week and believed to be that of the Wall Street Journal reporter, a defense attorney said Sunday.

British-born militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh said he and his three co-defendants, charged with the kidnapping and murder of Pearl, "have nothing to do with all that," attorney Rai Bashir said Saeed told him in a private message he received Saturday.

Bashir said that Saeed also denied that he has ties to Lashkar-e-Janghvi, an Islamic militant group linked to al-Qaida. Three suspected members of the group led police to the body earlier this week, according to the state-run Pakistan Television. The suspects remain in police custody.

"I do not belong to Lashkar-e-Janghvi. I'm a jihadi (holy warrior)," Bashir quoted Saeed as saying. Members of Lashkar-e-Janghvi are thought to have taken refuge in Afghanistan during the Taliban's rule there, and the group was banned by Pakistan earlier this year.

Pearl, an American and the Journal's South Asia bureau chief, disappeared four months ago in the restive port city of Karachi while researching a connection between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, who was arrested in December on a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives in his shoes.

On Friday, police in Karachi unearthed from a shallow grave a dismembered body believed to be that of Pearl. The body was found near a blood-splattered shack where authorities believe Pearl was held by his captors.

A jacket resembling the jogging suit Pearl was wearing in photos sent to news agencies by his captors was also found buried in the grave.

Police Chief Kamal Shah said a team of doctors from Lahore will be traveling to Karachi on Monday to take back blood and hair samples for DNA testing. Results from the tests, which will be conducted in Lahore, could take up to a week, he said.

Shah also said that Pakistani investigators might call in the FBI for help.

"If need be, we'll seek their technical assistance," he said.

U.S. investigators were called in to help Pakistan after Pearl disappeared on Jan. 23. Later, e-mails with photos of a captive Pearl were sent to foreign and local news publications. They were signed by a previously unknown group demanding better treatment for the suspected Taliban and al-Qaida men being held in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.

FBI agents traced the e-mails to Fahad Naseem, who in turn identified Saeed as the chief mastermind, police said. Naseem's cousin, Salman Saqib, and former policeman Sheikh Mohammed Adeel are also on trial.

The four men have all pleaded innocent. Their trial, which started April 22, is being held under heavy security in Hyderabad Jail, after the prosecution demanded it be moved from Karachi for safety reasons.

The trial is closed to reporters, who have to rely on defense attorneys and prosecutors for details of the proceedings. The last hearing was on Saturday.

The trial was to resume Tuesday with the judge expected to decide on a prosecution request to send a panel to Britain to videotape the testimony of Pearl's wife, Mariane.

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