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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 16:46 GMT
Musharraf says Pearl 'too intrusive'
Sheikh Omar being taken to a Karachi court
The chief suspect could face murder charges next week
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says that the murdered US journalist Daniel Pearl was "over-intrusive" in his pursuit of a story.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf
Musharraf said journalists should be more careful

General Musharraf said in Islamabad that the murder was unfortunate, but journalists needed to be aware of the risks they face and act accordingly.

Speaking at a conference, he added that the Pakistani authorities remained committed to investigating Mr Pearl's killing.

He said a decision would be made soon on whether the chief suspect, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, known as Sheikh Omar, would be tried for Mr Pearl's murder or extradited to the United States.

Mr Pearl, who worked for the Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped in January. His death was confirmed last month.

Legal representation

President Musharraf made no direct reference to the investigation that Mr Pearl was conducting into the involvement of Islamic militants in acts of terrorism in the United States.

But the president said the reporter had become over-involved in the story, which he said he should not have been.

Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl
Investigators are still looking for Mr Pearl's body

He said the government will only decide on whether or not to extradite Sheikh Omer once the police have completed their investigations into the murder.

His comments followed a decision by Karachi magistrates to allow the British-born militant to hire a lawyer before he is formally charged.

Senior Superintendent of Police Manzoor Mughal told the AFP news agency that Sheikh Omar had received permission to contact his family to organise legal representation.

The suspect appeared in court on Wednesday, when he was identified by a taxi driver, who said he had dropped Mr Pearl at a restaurant, where he saw Sheikh Omar greet the journalist.

The driver said he then saw Sheikh Omar drive Mr Pearl away.

A video recording showing the death of the journalist was sent to the US Consulate in Karachi about a month later.

Cross-examining

Three other men are also in custody on charges of e-mailing photographs of Mr Pearl on Sheikh Omar's orders soon after the journalist's abduction.

Sheikh Omar
Sheikh Omar can now hire a lawyer

A lawyer working for them, Khwaja Naveed, said he expected Sheikh Omar's lawyer - once he is appointed - to be able to cross-examine the taxi driver.

The driver's statement will be formally recorded at the court on Saturday.

At his first appearance in court, Sheikh Omar said he was behind the kidnapping, but he retracted the statement at a later hearing.

He is expected to face murder charges when his period in police custody expires on 12 March.

The United States has asked for Sheikh Omar's extradition in connection with the kidnapping of another American in the 1990s.

See also:

06 Mar 02 | South Asia
Chief suspect 'met dead US journalist'
05 Mar 02 | South Asia
Pearl case extradition 'possible'
27 Feb 02 | South Asia
US offers reward for Pearl killers
26 Feb 02 | South Asia
US seeks Pearl suspect's extradition
26 Feb 02 | South Asia
Pearl widow backs hunt for killers
25 Feb 02 | South Asia
Pearl kidnap suspect accuses police
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