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Lawyers for Sheikh Omar in Pearl murder confident of acquittal

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    Lawyers for Sheikh Omar in Pearl murder confident of acquittal

    Lawyers for chief defendant in Pearl murder confident client will be acquitted

    Testimony suggests suspect illegally detained

    By Zarar Khan, Associated Press, 07/01/02

    HYDERABAD, Pakistan -- Lawyers for the chief defendant in the kidnap-slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl predicted Monday that their client will be acquitted.

    The defense optimism came after testimony that appeared to support their contention that Saeed was illegally detained and, on that basis, the charges against him should be dismissed.

    "You will see he will be acquitted in this case," said Abdul Waheed Katpar, a lawyer for Saeed.

    The evidence could also boost the case of the three men on trial accused of being Saeed's accomplices.

    However, the chief prosecutor Raja Qureshi said the evidence is insufficient to acquit Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.

    Under Pakistani law, suspects are entitled to a court hearing within 24 hours of their detention.

    Saeed's father, Ahmed Saeed Sheikh, told the court Monday he was with his son when he surrendered on Feb. 5. Police have said Saeed was arrested the same day they announced he was in custody, on Feb 13.

    Sheikh also brought the court videotapes of Feb. 12 and Feb. 13 news reports by state-run Pakistan Television that showed Saeed in custody and said he had been arrested earlier, according to Katpar.

    In a brief statement to court on June 21, Saeed said authorities illegally detained him and tortured two of his fellow defendants in order to give police more time to fabricate a case against him.

    Saeed, a British-born former economics student who became a Muslim militant, has pleaded innocent to charges he masterminded Pearl's kidnapping in Karachi on Jan. 23.

    On Monday, the defense team asked to call Pakistan Television officials to testify about the accuracy of their news reports but the court denied the request.

    Defense lawyers said they said they would appeal the denial and court Judge Abdul Ghafoor Memon adjourned the trial until Thursday to allow time for the procedure.

    Journalists are not allowed into the courtroom but defense and prosecution teams regularly brief them.

    Diplomatic sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Saeed was in custody of Pakistani intelligence for several days before the announcement. The sources speculated that agents were urging him to lead them to Pearl.

    A few days after Pearl's disappearance, news organizations received e-mails claiming responsibility for the kidnapping in the name of a previously unknown group, the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. The group demanded, among other things, better treatment for Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners held by the Americans in Guantanamo, Cuba.

    The government's case rests heavily on technical FBI evidence, which traced the e-mails to fellow defendant Fahad Naseem. Police raided Naseem's apartment in Karachi and found the e-mails on his laptop's hard disk.

    According to police, Naseem said he sent the e-mails on instructions of Saeed, who told him he planned to seize someone who was "anti-Islam and a Jew."

    A taxi driver earlier told the court he took Pearl to meet Saeed at a Karachi restaurant shortly before his disappearance.

    The U.S. Consulate in Karachi received a videotape in February that showed Pearl dead. The tape surfaced after Saeed was in custody.

    The remains of a body believed to be Pearl's were recovered in Karachi last month from a shallow grave near a shed where police believe he was held before being killed. DNA results are pending.
    What haapened between Feb 5 and Feb 13?