By: Afzal Nadeem, Associated Press Writer
(AP) A Pakistani appeals court removed the judge hearing the case of slain U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl on Friday, just three days before the opening statements are scheduled to be heard, the chief prosecutor said.
Meanwhile, Pearl’s widow, Mariane, urged the Pakistani people to “act against evil” by building a memorial to her husband in Karachi, a project she said would show that the overwhelmingly Muslim nation condemns the views of the Islamic extremists charged with his murder.
“I will bring our son to this memorial and tell him this is the land where his father died, but that the people here stood by us so that his death would not be in vain,” Mariane Pearl, who is nearly nine months pregnant, wrote in an op-ed piece published Friday in The New York Times.
The attorney for the alleged mastermind of Pearl’s kidnapping, British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, had requested the removal of Judge Arshad Noor Khan because the judge heard Saeed admit his role in the crime in a Feb. 14 court appearance.
The comments were not made under oath and are considered inadmissible, but attorney Abdul Waheed Katpar asked the Sindh Province High Court for the anti-terrorism court judge to be removed because he could be called as a witness.
Despite the move, prosecutor Raja Quereshi told The Associated Press he expects a new judge will be appointed in time to hear opening statements and entering of pleas as scheduled on Monday morning. Quereshi did not challenge the request for a new judge, saying he wanted to allay the fears of the defense. “We believe in a fair and transparent trial,” he said.
Pearl, The Wall Street Journal‘s South Asia correspondent, disappeared Jan. 23 on his way to a restaurant in Karachi, the capital of Sindh province, 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 captivity.
In all, 11 people have been charged in Pearl’s disappearance.
A videotape received by U.S. diplomats in Pakistan on Feb. 21 confirmed Pearl was dead. His body has not been found. Saeed and the three others were arrested before the tape was received.
Saeed, 28, has also been indicted in the Pearl case by a federal grand jury in New Jersey and was secretly indicted in the 1994 kidnapping of an American citizen in India.
Mariane Pearl, a French free-lance journalist, wrote in her opinion piece that even amid angry demonstrations by militant Muslims over the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, many Pakistanis she and her husband met before he was kidnapped rejected extremist views. “All expressed shame and anger at how terrorists and their supporters had stolen Islam for their own purpose by promoting hatred and violence,” she wrote.
As she waited for news of her husband in the weeks following his abduction, she wrote, “I was surrounded by individual Pakistanis and Muslims as courageous and beautiful as those terrorists appeared ugly and without souls. I can never be grateful enough for their graciousness, a ray of hope in the midst of darkness.”