By: Ted Bridis, Associated Press Writer
(AP) U.S. officials quietly discussed options Tuesday for filing criminal charges in the United States against Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh in the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
They agreed to delay any action until Pakistan decides whether to send Saeed to the United States.
Government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said prosecutors still must decide which charges would be filed and where. Among jurisdictions under consideration are New York, New Jersey, northern Virginia, and Washington, where Saeed was secretly indicted in November in the 1994 kidnapping of another American, Bela Nuss.
A decision on criminal charges and venue could come as early as this week, officials said. Affecting any announcement is Pakistan’s decision whether to send Saeed under an informal procedure that would not require extradition formalities.
Pakistan previously has sent criminal suspects to the United States under such a procedure, called “rendering,” since the two nations do not have a formal extradition agreement. But with sensitive diplomatic negotiations under way, U.S. officials have been careful to note that Pakistan also wants to prosecute Saeed there.
About one dozen FBI agents have been in Pakistan for weeks working with Pakistani police to collect evidence about Pearl’s kidnapping and subsequent murder, officials said.
The White House repeated Tuesday that it wants Saeed to stand trial in the United States in Pearl’s killing, and U.S. Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin said she was not disappointed after discussions with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. She would not give details of the talks and said no resolution was imminent.
Musharraf talked by phone with Secretary of State Colin Powell after meeting with the ambassador, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
“We want to see (Saeed) in U.S. custody for the crimes he has committed against Americans,” Boucher said. “The Pakistanis are examining the request (to send Saeed to America), and we will try to bring our request to a conclusion.”
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said U.S. officials will respect Pakistan’s right to handle its criminal case against Saeed.
“A crime, a murder was committed in their country, and they have their own ways and laws of dealing with it,” he said. “It’s not atypical at a time like that, when another nation makes a request, for that request to be considered, and it takes time.”
The United States sought Saeed even before his name came up in connection with Pearl’s murder. A federal grand jury in Washington secretly indicted him in the 1994 kidnapping of four Westerners in India, including Nuss, an American.