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Pearl Trial Ends; Verdict Set for Monday

BY Admin  July 10, 2002 at 2:40 PM EDT

Chief Prosecutor Raja Quereshi told reporters Judge Ali Ashraf Shah is scheduled to deliver his verdict Monday. There is no jury and Shah is the only judge deciding the case.

Prosecutors said they had proven the four men were behind Pearl’s killing.

“We have established that they are guilty,” Quereshi said. “We have established the conspiracy, kidnapping for ransom … we have established the destruction of evidence… We look forward for a positive judgement in favor of the prosecution.”

But defense attorneys say prosecutors failed to present a convincing case.

“All the evidence brought by the prosecution against the accused persons is doubtful,” defense lawyer Rai Bashir told reporters. “On the basis of such evidence, they cannot be convicted.”

British-born militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was jailed for five years in India for allegedly kidnapping a group of British and American tourists, is accused of conceiving the plot to kill Pearl. The three other men, Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil, are charged with following Saeed’s orders. All four men have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors say Saeed abducted Pearl after telling the reporter he had scheduled a meeting with an Islamic cleric in Karachi. After Pearl’s disappearance, the kidnappers allegedly sent e-mails to news organizations containing pictures of Pearl with a gun to his head. A month later, a graphic three-minute videotape showing Pearl’s throat being cut was delivered to the U.S. consulate in Karachi.

Originally scheduled for seven days, the trial carried on for 12 weeks behind closed doors and under heavy guard. The trial began April 22 inside the central jail in Karachi, the city in which Pearl was last seen alive, but officials moved the proceedings some 75 miles away to Hyderabad in May citing security concerns.

The 38-year-old Pearl was kidnapped Jan. 23 while researching a story on alleged “shoe bomber” Richard Reid’s possible connections to Islamic militant groups. Pakistani authorities discovered a body believed to be Pearl’s near Karachi in May, but DNA tests on the remains are still pending.