11 Charged with the Murder of WS Journal Reporter


KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) -- The alleged mastermind of the kidnapping of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was charged with murder in a Pakistani anti-terrorism court Friday, along with 10 accomplices.

Chief prosecutor Raja Quereshi presented the charges amid unprecedented security, with 100 armed police officers ringing the courthouse.

The indictment accuses Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three other Islamic militants who are in custody of murder, kidnapping and terrorism in Pearl's death. Seven other suspects who remain at large face the same charges.

Saeed and alleged accomplice Sheikh Mohammed Adeel were escorted to the court by two dozen armored personnel carriers mounted with machine guns. The other two suspects in custody, Fahad Naseem and Salman Saqib, were not present.

The court was scheduled to convene again March 29, when a judge is expected to decide whether there's enough evidence to accept the charges. Once that step is taken, a trial would begin immediately.

Saeed, a British-educated Islamic militant, is the key suspect in the Jan. 23 kidnapping in the southern port city of Karachi.

He confessed in court last month that he abducted Pearl, but has since withdrawn the statement, which was not made under oath and is considered inadmissible.

The case against Saeed relies heavily on the testimony of taxi driver Nasir Abbas, who told police he drove Pearl to a restaurant and saw him shake hands with Saeed before getting into a car with him.

Other evidence includes e-mailed photographs of Pearl in chains. The e-mail was traced to the three other defendants in custody.

A videotape received by the U.S. Consulate in Karachi in February proved Pearl had been murdered.

"We have circumstantial evidence and also the videotape of Daniel Pearl's murder," Quereshi told reporters after presenting the charges. "We will present that too, as evidence."

Two of the suspects, Naseem and Saqib, also have submitted confessions implicating Saeed in the plot. Their lawyer said Thursday that he would move to have the confessions blocked.

The United States also intends to prosecute Saeed, but Pakistan has insisted proceedings must be completed here first.

A U.S. federal grand jury in New Jersey indicted Saeed in the Pearl case on March 14. Since the kidnapping resulted in the reporter's murder, Saeed could face the death penalty in the United States.

The U.S. indictment alleges Saeed trained at Afghan military camps and fought with Taliban and al-Qaida fighters last September and October, at the start of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan.

Pearl, South Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped when examining links between Pakistani extremists and so-called shoe bomber Richard C. Reid, who was arrested in December on a Paris-Miami flight he allegedly boarded with explosives in his sneakers.

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