By: Zahid Hussain, Associated Press Reporter
(AP) The chief prosecutor in the case of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl said Thursday he has enough evidence to bring a murder charge against the main suspect — even though Pearl’s body has not been found.
The indictment expected Friday will charge Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three alleged accomplices with murder, kidnapping, and terrorism, chief prosecutor Raja Quereshi said.
“We have not found the body, but it will not affect the case,” Quereshi told The Associated Press. “There is other evidence which is sufficient for his conviction.”
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, a British-educated Islamic militant, before getting into a car with him. Other evidence includes confessions from two of the accomplices as well as e-mails that included photographs of Pearl in captivity.
The lawyer for the three alleged accomplices, Khawaja Naveed Ahmed, said his clients would seek to retract their confessions at Friday’s court session.
“The earlier confession … had been extracted under coercion,” he said. “They were tortured.”
Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi on Jan. 23 while attempting to get an interview with a prominent figure in Pakistan’s Islamic movement. A group known as “The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty” sent an e-mail about Pearl’s abduction, together with a picture of him in chains.
Last month, a videotape received by the U.S. Consulate in Karachi confirmed Pearl had been slain.
A federal grand jury in New Jersey has indicted Saeed on charges of conspiring to take Pearl hostage and then kidnapping him. Since the kidnapping resulted in Pearl’s death, Saeed could face the death penalty if brought to the United States and convicted.
Pakistan has insisted the investigation must take place here first. If charges are filed Friday in Sindh province’s high court, Saeed could face prosecution before a Pakistani anti-terrorism court within seven days.
Saeed admitted his role in the kidnapping in court Feb. 14 but later recanted. The statement is inadmissible because it was not made under oath.
The three other suspects were arrested Jan. 30 after the FBI and police traced the e-mails announcing Pearl’s abduction to a laptop belonging to one of them, Fahad Naseem.
Naseem confessed and said Saeed told him three days before the kidnapping that he planned to abduct someone who is “anti-Islam and a Jew.”
The other two suspects in custody are Sheikh Mohammed Adeel and Salman Saqib.
Police are looking for several others, including Amjad Hussain Faruqi, the man police believe actually abducted and held Pearl.