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Police Testify on Pearl Kidnapping

April 23, 2002

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KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) _ Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh admitted his role in the kidnap-slaying of reporter Daniel Pearl and said he expected to be extradited to the United States, two police officers testified Tuesday.

The second day of testimony against Saeed and three other men started with an outburst from Salman Saqib, one of Saeed’s co-defendants, who called the first government witness an ``agent of the Jews,″ according to a defense attorney. The courtroom inside the Karachi Central Jail is closed to reporters and the public.

All four men in custody have pleaded innocent to charges of murder, kidnapping and terrorism. They face the death penalty if convicted.

Karachi police officers Athar Rashid and Faisal Noor testified they were present at a Feb. 14 hearing where Saeed admitted kidnapping Pearl, chief prosecutor Raja Quereshi told reporters in a briefing after the 5 1/2-hours of testimony concluded.

The officers told the court Saeed said he kidnapped the American reporter, that Pearl was dead and that ’``I know that I will be extradited to the United States,‴ Quereshi said.

The British-born Saeed, 28, also has been indicted in the Pearl case by a federal grand jury in New Jersey. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has said his government would not only prosecute Saeed but also would punish him.

Khawaja Naveed, who represents defendants Fahad Naseem and Sheikh Mohammed Adeel, said he objected to the police testimony because Saeed’s statements were not made under oath.

Judge Abdul Ghafoor Memon said he would decide whether to consider the testimony when making his final judgment in the case. There is no jury.

The outburst from Saqib came as Jamil Yusuf, the head of Karachi’s Citizen-Police Liaison Committee, was testifying that he had a meeting with the 38-year-old Pearl the night the reporter disappeared.

``Saqib started shouting at Yusuf, accusing him of having tortured him and he also (verbally) abused Yusuf while he was giving his statement,″ Naveed said.

After the interruption, Yusuf testified that while he was talking to Pearl on Jan. 23, the reporter received two calls on his cell phone, once telling the caller ``he would be coming soon,″ said Saeed’s attorney, Abdul Waheed Katpar.

Yusuf said he later learned the calls had been traced to one of seven suspects still sought in the kidnapping.

Taxi driver Nasir Abbas has testified he took Pearl to the appointment with Yusuf, then drove him to another location in Karachi, where he saw Pearl get into a car with Saeed.

Pearl, The Wall Street Journal’s South Asia correspondent, disappeared that night while researching links between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, who was arrested in December on a Paris-Miami flight and charged with having explosives in his shoes.

A few days after Pearl disappeared, a previously unknown group called the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty sent e-mails announcing his kidnapping and showing pictures of him in captivity.

A videotape received by U.S. diplomats on Feb. 21 confirmed Pearl’s death. His body has not been found.

Update hourly