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Police Testify Militant Confessed to Role in Pearl Abduction

BY Admin  April 23, 2002 at 1:50 PM EST

Attorney Khawaja Naveed, who represents two of Saeed’s co-defendants, told reporters, ”They said they heard [Saeed] confessing his crime.”

“They said that [Saeed] said number one that he masterminded the kidnapping of Mr. Pearl, number two that he will not defend himself before the court and number three that Mr. Pearl is dead.”

Saeed’s attorney, Abdul Waheed Katpar, said his client’s alleged confession came during a remand hearing after his capture in February. Saeed later recanted that statement.

Defense attorneys objected to the policemen’s testimony, saying Saeed’s statements were not made under oath and are inadmissible in court. But Judge Abdul Ghafoor Memon allowed the testimony, Katpar said, and said he would decide on its admissibility when rendering a final judgement.

The testimony came during the second day of proceedings against Saeed and three co-defendants accused of kidnapping and killing Pearl, the Journal’s South Asia bureau chief. All four men have pleaded innocent to the charges; they face the death penalty if convicted.

It was the second day in the trial, which, by Pakistani law, is required to conclude within a week. The proceedings, which were closed to the public and the media, took place in a fortified makeshift courtroom inside the Karachi Central Jail — a precaution meant to minimize security risks, officials say.

Pearl was reported missing the evening of Jan. 23 while in Karachi researching a story on possible connections between Pakistani militants and Richard Reid, the man who was arrested on a trans-Atlantic flight in December for allegedly carrying explosives in his shoes. Officials concluded Pearl had been killed after a gruesome videotape depicting the act surfaced in late February. His body has not been found.

Chief prosecutor Raja Qureshi told reporters he was confident the men would be convicted, saying his team has “enough evidence to end this trial quickly and in our favor.” He said four or five prosecution witnesses would take the stand Wednesday.