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Friday, 21 June, 2002, 14:21 GMT 15:21 UK
Pearl suspect says charges 'baseless'
Soldier on guard outside court
The trial is being held inside a prison in Hyderabad
The chief defendant in the trial in Pakistan of the alleged killers of US journalist Daniel Pearl has described the charges against him as "baseless."

British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh made the remark in a lengthy statement before an anti-terrorism court where he and three others are on trial.


The entire case is a tissue of lies. All the witnesses are police officers, police spies or police touts and agents

Omar Sheikh
Journalists are not allowed into the heavily-guarded courtroom inside a prison in Hyderabad.

However, lawyers at the trial quoted Omar Sheikh as saying that the evidence against him had been fabricated.

He contended that he was not in Karachi on the day that Pearl disappeared.

Daniel Pearl, who worked for the Wall Street Journal, disappeared on 23 January while working on stories about Islamic militants.

The following month a video was sent to the US consulate in Karachi showing him being murdered.

'Fabricated'

During Friday's hearing, Omar Sheikh claimed that he had been in detention for a week before his arrest was made public.

Omar Sheikh
Omar Sheikh: Accused of masterminding kidnapping
He said this was to allow the police time to manufacture a case against him.

"All this kind of evidence has been fabricated against me in order to please America and to show loyalty and so-called efficiency to the Americans," he said.

He also said that two of his co-defendants had made statements implicating him only after being tortured.

Omar Sheikh refused to make his statement to the court under oath, saying he had no respect for courts modelled on the British judicial system.

The four men face charges of murder, kidnapping and terrorist activities which carry the death penalty.

Omar Sheikh is charged with masterminding Mr Pearl's kidnapping.

The three other men are alleged to have acted on his instructions.

They are also due to make statements before the court

'Arrests'

Reports from Karachi on Thursday said seven members of the banned extremist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, had been arrested by the security forces.

According to one press report, they are suspected of involvement in the bomb attack on French nationals in May and in the murder of Daniel Pearl.

However, senior police officials in Sindh Province denied there had been any arrests.


The victim

The militant

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See also:

04 Jun 02 | South Asia
18 May 02 | South Asia
17 May 02 | South Asia
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