Friday, February 15, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pearl dead: Omar Sheikh
Pak Government rubbishes claim

Karachi, February 14
The key suspect in the abduction of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl told a court today that the journalist was dead. Officials said they would reserve judgement until a body was found, and the journal said it remained confident Pearl was alive.

“As far as I understand, he’s dead,” Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh said in a courthouse here where Pearl disappeared on January 23 while investigating a story on Islamic militants.

Saeed appeared in the Karachi court where he was formally charged with kidnapping and ordered jail for two more weeks.

A sullen, bespectacled Saeed, surrounded by the police with machine guns and bullet-proof vests, confessed to the crime.

“I don’t want to defend this case. I did this,” he said.

He gave no details on where or when the 38-year-old journalist was allegedly killed.

The police said Saeed surrendered to the authorities on Tuesday, but Saeed told the court he had been in police custody since February 5. There was no explanation for the discrepancy.

“I was not arrested. I gave myself in on February 5. I gave myself in after it became known that I was involved to save my family from harassment,” he told the court in a soft voice, barely audible at times. The 27-year-old British-born Islamic militant had a history of kidnapping westerners.

Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider cast doubt on Saeed’s statement. “Until the body is found we cannot believe what Saeed is saying,” he said. “We need proof or evidence. We will continue to work on him, grind him”, he said.

Steven Goldstein, spokesman for Dow Jones & Co, The Wall Street Journal’s parent organisation, said he had not heard about Saeed’s statement. “We continue to remain hopeful,” Goldstein said. “We remain confident that Danny is still alive.”

Saeed, who was brought to the courtroom in an armoured personnel carrier under heavy security, said he carried out the kidnapping under “my own free will.” “Right or wrong I had my reasons,” he told the judge in a quiet voice. “I think that our country shouldn’t be catering to America’s needs.” APBack

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