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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 06:32 GMT 07:32 UK
New evidence in Pearl case hearings
Paramilitary soldiers escort the suspects
The chief suspect wants to be tried under Sharia law
The trial in Pakistan of four men accused of the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl has resumed in the city of Karachi.

On Tuesday it heard evidence from one of the last people to see him before he was kidnapped.

Daniel Pearl in captivity
Pearl's body has not been found

Two police officers also testified that they heard the main suspect, British-born militant, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, admitting his role in the kidnapping.

On Monday Omar Sheikh and the three other accused declared themselves innocent of the charges.

Mr Pearl disappeared in Karachi in January while researching Muslim extremism and afterwards a video was sent to US diplomats showing him being killed although his body has not been found.

Originally, the trial was expected to be completed within a week although the process could now take longer than initially assumed.

Telephone calls

On Tuesday the court heard evidence from one of the last people to have met Mr Pearl before he disappeared.

The man, Yusuf Jamil of the Citizens Police Liaison Committee, described how Mr Pearl had come to his office on the day of his abduction.

Paramilitary troops guarding the jail
The authorities have sealed off the court

He said he heard Mr Pearl tell a caller on his mobile phone that he, Mr Pearl, would soon meet them.

Shortly afterwards, Mr Pearl vanished after arriving outside a Karachi restaurant.

Mr Jamil said when Mrs Mariane Pearl called a few days later to inquire after her husband, he advised her to get her husband's mobile phone bill which would show who had called him twice while Mr Pearl was in Mr Jamil's office.

Mr Jamil added that Mrs Pearl later told him the number from which those two calls were made belonged to Imtiaz Siddiqe, one of seven other people the police are now looking for.

He said she told him this number had earlier been e-mailed to her husband by Mohammad Bashir, a name police say was at the time being used as an alias by Omar Sheikh himself.

Retracted statement

The court also heard from two Pakistani police officers, Athar Rashid and Faisal Noor, who had attended a hearing in February at which Omar Sheikh said he believed Mr Pearl was dead.

According to a defence attorney Khawaja Naveed, the two officers said Omar Sheikh had said he had masterminded Mr Pearl's abduction, that he would not defend himself and that Mr Pearl was dead.

However, Omar Sheikh did not make that statement under oath, later retracting it, and defence lawyers say it should not be admissible in the hearings at all.

The trial, held behind closed doors in a makeshift courtroom at Karachi Central Jail, is taking place amid massive security.

Omar Sheikh's father Saeed Sheikh, who has been allowed to attend the hearings, said he had met his son before the proceedings began, and that Omar Sheikh wished to pass on a message.

This was a warning that those who oppressed Muslims would have to face the "wrath of god".

The hearings resume on Wednesday when the prosecution says it will call another 10 witnesses.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Susannah Price
"Security is extremely tight"
See also:

19 Apr 02 | South Asia
Pearl trial judge removed
06 Mar 02 | South Asia
Chief suspect 'met dead US journalist'
05 Mar 02 | South Asia
Pearl case extradition 'possible'
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