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U.S. Seeks Charges in Pearl’s Death

March 14, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal prosecutors will seek criminal charges against the key figure in the kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and an announcement could be made as early as Thursday, officials told The Associated Press.

The officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, declined to describe the charges that would be filed against Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. But they cautioned that offenses short of murder, such as conspiracy or kidnapping, could be considered by a grand jury until the FBI develops more evidence.

The officials said the charges would likely be filed in New Jersey and that a separate indictment filed last year against Saaed for a mid-1990s kidnapping could be unsealed soon in Washington.

A decision to press forward with a U.S. criminal indictment caps weeks of deliberations within the Justice Department and State Department about how to proceed, even as Saeed faces criminal proceedings in Pakistan.

U.S. officials, eager to move the case ahead, have been in discussions with Pakistani officials about prospects for sending Saeed and possibly others to the United States. The two nations have no formal extradition agreement, but Pakistan previously has sent suspects to the United States under a procedure known as ``rendering.″

It was unclear immediately why prosecutors chose to file the charges in New Jersey. Pearl’s employer, The Wall Street Journal, has been operating out of a makeshift headquarters there since its New York offices were heavily damaged by the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Among jurisdictions that had been under consideration were New York, northern Virginia and Washington, where Saeed was secretly indicted in November in the 1994 kidnapping of another American, Bela Nuss.

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