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Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Pearl trial lawyers win new venue
Police escort three accused  out of the High Court in Karachi
Hearings will now be held in Hyderabad's central jail
A high court in Pakistan has agreed to move the trial of four men accused of murdering US journalist Daniel Pearl to a more secure location.

The chief prosecutor in the case had said witnesses and the prosecution team were being threatened by defendants at the trial, which began a week ago.

The threats are of a serious nature, including intelligence reports that the jail could be blown up if this trial proceeds

Chief Prosecutor Raja Qureshi
Hearings, which have been taking place in the central jail in the southern city of Karachi, will now be held in a jail in Hyderabad, 150 kilometres (95 miles) to the east.

The Sindh High Court also agreed to a request for the trial judge to be replaced.

Daniel Pearl, who worked for the Wall Street Journal, went missing in January in Karachi.

A video was later sent to US diplomats showing him being killed.

Judge replaced

Requesting the change of judge, Chief Prosecutor Raja Qureshi had said Judge Abdul Ghafoor Memon was unwilling or unable to stop the defendants from making threatening gestures to himself and his witnesses.

Daniel Pearl in captivity
Pearl's body has not been found
A new judge, the trial's third, will preside when proceedings resume on 3 May.

Judge Memon had already replaced Arshad Noor Khan, who was removed after defence arguments that he was not impartial.

All four defendants - including chief suspect Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British-born former public schoolboy - have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, kidnapping and terrorism.

They face the death penalty if convicted. Seven other suspects have been charged but remain at large.

Security 'inappropriate'

Mr Qureshi told the High Court the government had received reports that Omar Sheikh's supporters were planning to blow up the Karachi jail in order to free the defendants.

"I also said the Karachi jail security was inappropriate," Mr Qureshi said.

Paramilitary troops guarding the jail in Karachi
The authorities have sealed off the court
Two police officers have also testified that they heard Omar Sheikh admit his role in the kidnapping.

The first judge, Judge Khan, was also present at the pre-trial hearing when Omar Sheikh made the comments, not under oath, which he later retracted.

Judge Khan was removed after the defence argued that the fact he had heard the comments effectively made him a witness.

See also:

24 Apr 02 | South Asia
New evidence in Pearl case hearings
23 Apr 02 | South Asia
Pearl murder trial security fears
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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