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Monday, 25 February, 2002, 17:22 GMT
Pearl kidnap suspect accuses police
Sheikh Omar arrives in court wearing a white hood
Sheikh Omar arrived in court wearing a white hood
The man accused of masterminding the abduction of US journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan has refused to confess to the crime in a Karachi court.

Police have been trying to force us to sign blank papers

Sheikh Omar
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh - also known as Sheikh Omar - is said to have admitted to organising the kidnapping during an earlier court appearance when he was not under oath.

But in his latest appearance, he complained to the judge that he was being pressed to sign a confession.

"I don't want to make any confessional statement. Police have been trying to force us to sign blank papers," he is quoted as saying.

Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl's body has yet to be found

Defence lawyer Khwaja Naveed later told newsmen that the judge noted these complaints and asked the police not to coerce the accused men into making confessional statements.

Sheikh Omar was arrested on 12 February and was in custody when the authorities received a videotape showing Mr Pearl's throat being slit.

Court officials said the judge remanded the British-born Islamic militant in police custody for another 14 days to give investigators time to recover Mr Pearl's body and more evidence before charging him with murder.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has suggested that efforts could be made to bring him before a United States military tribunal.

American news organisations have also reported that weeks before Sheikh Omar was implicated in Mr Pearl's abduction, Washington had sought his extradition for an attempted kidnapping in 1994.

Nationwide hunt

Sheikh Omar appeared before the Sindh High Court with two other men - Sheikh Abil and Salman Saquib - who have been accused of sending emails linked to the kidnapping.

Amid an intense security operation, the three men arrived in court wearing white hoods over their heads. They were in court for less than an hour.

Police are still hunting for the others involved in the 23 January abduction and subsequent murder.

The most wanted man is Amjad Hussain Faruqi, an Islamic militant believed to have driven Mr Pearl from his Karachi hotel while he was following a story about the al-Qaeda network of Osama Bin Laden.

Officers are also looking for at least four accomplices, some of whom are believed to be Arab nationals.

The BBC's Susannah Price
"The short hearing took place in the privacy of the judge's chambers"
See also:

21 Feb 02 | South Asia
Pearl kidnap suspect admits role
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