By: Zahid Hussain, Associated Press Writer
(AP) A 21-year-old Islamic militant charged in the kidnapping of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl told a judge Thursday that the journalist was seized because he was “anti-Islam and a Jew,” his lawyer said.
In a closed door deposition, Fahad Naseem admitted sending e-mails announcing Pearl’s kidnapping on orders of British-born suspect Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, according to defense attorney Khawaja Naveed Ahmed.
Naseem was among three people arrested for sending the e-mails announcing Pearl’s Jan. 23 abduction, which included photos of him in captivity. Naseem was brought to court with his head covered by a hood and surrounded by three dozen heavily armed policemen.
Several vehicles mounted with machine guns parked outside the court building, and armed police patrolled the rooftops of this congested neighborhood in this southern port city, Pakistan’s largest.
Naseem gave his statement to the judge in a closed-door session which even excluded his lawyer. The lawyer told reporters what his client had said based on the official transcript, which was not made available to reporters. Naseem was ordered jailed pending trial.
Officials cleared out the entire floor where the 1 1/2-hour deposition hearing took place.
According to the lawyer, Naseem told the judge that on Jan. 21 — two days before Pearl disappeared — he was taken to a house he had never visited before by his cousin Salman Saqib, a co-defendant in the case.
At the house, Naseem said Saeed gave him money to purchase a camera and that he was later given a scanner to send e-mails, Naveed said. According to the lawyer, Naseem said Saeed told him there were plans to kidnap someone who is “anti-Islam and a Jew.”
Naseem claimed that he had never met Pearl personally, Naveed said. Saeed appeared in court last week and admitted to his role in the kidnapping. He also told the judge he believed Pearl was dead.
Pearl, the Journal‘s South Asian bureau chief, was abducted on his way to a meeting in Karachi with Islamic extremists. He hoped they would provide information about e-mails exchanged by Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, the so-called shoe bomber arrested on a Paris-to-Miami flight in December with explosives in his sneakers.
Four days later, an e-mail sent to Pakistani and international media showed photos of Pearl in captivity — including one with a gun pointed to his head — and demanded that the United States repatriate Pakistanis captured in Afghanistan who are being held at a U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
A second e-mail sent Jan. 30 said the 38-year-old reporter would be killed in 24 hours. That was the last known message from his captors, and the question of whether Pearl is alive remains unanswered.
Investigators traced the e-mails to Naseem, who they said had the messages stored on his laptop computer.
Also arrested and accused of sending the e-mails were Sheikh Mohammed Adeel, a constable with the police department’s special branch, and Saqib, the cousin. Both are thought to have links to an extremist group called Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Twelve days ago, Naseem and the other two suspected e-mailers were formally charged and remanded into custody for two weeks. A new remand hearing was pushed forward to Thursday because of the start of the Islamic Eid al-Adha holiday this weekend.
It wasn’t immediately clear when Adeel and Saqib would appear in court again.
Saeed, the alleged mastermind, publicly admitted to the kidnapping in a court appearance last week, but that confession may not be enough to convict him because he confessed without being sworn in and without the presence of a court stenographer, the chief prosecutor said.
During his court appearance, Saeed, the son of a Pakistani-born clothing merchant who lives in Britain, also said that he believed the journalist was dead.
Saeed’s statement caught authorities by surprise because the hearing was held only to formally open the court proceedings against him and remand him to police custody. Saeed unexpectedly made his confession without having been sworn to the truth and without a court stenographer being present.
The prosecution had asked for a closed-door hearing, but the judge, Arshad Noor Khan, allowed reporters to attend.
On Wednesday, chief prosecutor Raja Quereshi said investigators need more evidence to convict Saeed because the confession has no “legal sanctity.”
“It has no legal basis because the statement was not made under oath in front of a magistrate nor it was recorded as per court procedure,” Quereshi told The Associated Press by telephone from Karachi.
Police are believed to be searching for two suspects — Amjad Faruqi and Mohammed Hashim Qadeer — who had been in contact with Pearl.
Saeed identified Faruqi, known by various aliases, as the person who carried out the kidnapping.