New York Times
KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) -- A British-born Islamic
militant and three co-defendants pleaded innocent
Monday to the kidnap-slaying of Wall Street Journal
reporter Daniel Pearl, a court official said.
Journalists and members of the public were not
allowed to attend the proceedings, but a senior court
official speaking on condition of anonymity said all
four men answered "no" when asked if they pleaded
It had been uncertain if top suspect Ahmed Omar
Saeed Sheikh would enter a plea, because he had said
he did not recognize Pakistan's "British" secular
court system, demanding instead to be tried by an
The trial began under tight security Monday morning
inside a makeshift courtroom in the Karachi Central
Jail, where Saeed and the three others are held on
charges of murder, kidnapping and terrorism. They face
the death penalty if convicted.
Police snipers manned positions in guard towers and
atop buildings as the judge and prosecutors arrived
shortly before the proceedings began.
Some 70 additional officers have been added to
guard the jail during the trial because officials fear
cohorts of the suspects "might try to free them or
even kill them," said Amanullah Niazi, deputy
superintendent of police at the Karachi jail.
Policemen with assault rifles guard chief
prosecutor Raja Quereshi's house day and night, and
armed guards accompany prosecutors and the judge when
they leave their residences. Tight security is not
something new in this port city with a history of
targeted killings of government officials, but no
chances are being taken in this closely watched
The entering of pleas and opening statements in the
proceedings have been twice delayed since April 5 --
once to enable the defense to receive evidence and
later to allow time to complete legal steps for trying
seven fugitive defendants in absentia.
On Friday, Judge Arshad Noor Khan was removed as
the trial justice because he was present during a Feb.
14 hearing where Saeed admitted his role in the
kidnapping. Saeed later recanted, but his lawyers
argued that allowing Khan to preside would be
prejudicial to the defense. Abdul Ghafoor Memon was
appointed as a replacement.
Pearl, the Journal's South Asia correspondent,
disappeared Jan. 23 while supposedly researching links
between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, the
man arrested in December on a Paris-Miami flight with
explosives in his shoes.
Pearl was last seen on his way to a Karachi
restaurant to meet an Islamic militant believed to
have been Saeed. A few days later, e-mails sent by the
previously unknown National Movement for the
Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty announced his
kidnapping and showed pictures of him in
A videotape received by U.S. diplomats in Pakistan
on Feb. 21 confirmed Pearl, 38, was dead. His body has
not been found.
U.S. investigators traced the e-mails to one of the
defendants, Fahad Naseem, who in turn identified Saeed
as the mastermind, police said. Salman Saqib and
former policeman Sheikh Mohammed Adeel, are also
Saeed joined Islamic extremist movements after
traveling to the Balkans about 10 years ago, and is
believed to have received some training at a camp in
Afghanistan. He was arrested in India in 1994 for
He was freed in December 1999 along with two other
Islamic militants in exchange for the passengers and
crew of an Indian Airlines jet that was hijacked to