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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
Trial of Pearl suspect adjourns
Sheikh Omar outside court
The trial is being held in Karachi jail
The trial of a British-born militant accused of masterminding the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl has been adjourned on its opening day in Pakistan.

Lawyers for the accused, Omar Sheikh, demanded to see more documents from the government about the kidnapping of Mr Pearl in January and his subsequent killing.

Omar Sheikh arriving at court in Karachi
Omar Sheikh is charged with kidnapping

Judge Arshad Noor Khan ordered the e-mails and photographs requested to be provided and said the trial would resume next Friday, defence lawyers said after the hearing.

Journalists and the public have been banned from the Karachi jail where the trial is being held.

Only relatives are being allowed access and the jail is surrounded by paramilitary troops with machine guns.

The case
Chief accused: Omar Sheikh
Co-accused: Sheikh Mohammed Adeel; Fahad Naseem; Salman Saqib; Seven others still at large
Prosecution evidence: ransom e-mails; "execution" video; 31 witnesses including FBI agents
Charges: murder; kidnapping; demanding ransom; terrorism
Maximum penalty: death

Mr Pearl, the Wall Street Journal's South Asia bureau chief, disappeared on 23 January while researching possible links between Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network and Richard Reid, the British man who boarded a US-bound flight with explosives in his shoes.

Photographs of Mr Pearl in captivity with a gun at his head were sent by e-mail with ransom demands.

In February, a video tape was sent to US officials showing his killing, but his body has not been found.

Torture claims

The trial is being held in the jail after an application to have it heard in public in Karachi's criminal court was rejected on security grounds.

Omar Sheikh's father Sheikh Ahmed Saeed
Omar Sheikh's father Sheikh Ahmed Saeed was allowed in to the hearing
The four suspects in custody were brought to the hour-long hearing and indictments were formally issued for seven others believed to have been involved in the murder.

Defence lawyer Khawaja Naveed said Omar Sheikh was silent throughout but another defendant, Salman Saqib, shouted out allegations of torture.

He told Judge Khan that a policeman struck him in the face 350 times and that he was hit with a shoe 450 times.

"I was beaten and hung upside down four times," Mr Naveed quoted Mr Saqib as saying.

No evidence was heard at the hearing, which dealt with procedural matters.

Confession

When the trial resumes, the defence is expected to try to have the judge removed from the case.

Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl disappeared in January
They say that the judge himself became a witness because he heard Omar Sheikh claim at an earlier hearing that he had been involved in the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl.

Omar Sheikh later retracted that confession.

The court will also consider an application to have the case against Omar Sheikh and the three other men in custody separated from the case against the seven other suspects still at large.

Those proceedings are likely to delay the opening statements until a week after the trial resumes.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Adam Mynott
"Everyone entering the prison compound was searched"
See also:

09 Mar 02 | South Asia
Pearl case suspect hears testimony
07 Mar 02 | South Asia
Musharraf says Pearl 'too intrusive'
06 Mar 02 | South Asia
Chief suspect 'met dead US journalist'
05 Mar 02 | South Asia
Pearl case extradition 'possible'
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