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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Pearl murderer defiant after verdict
 Pakistani police surrounding Omar Sheikh during the trial
Omar Sheikh will appeal against the verdict, say lawyers
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh has reacted defiantly to his death sentence for abducting and murdering US journalist Daniel Pearl.

The British-born Islamic militant said that the Pakistani trial was a "waste of time" in a "decisive war between Islam and infidels", according to a statement issued through his lawyer after the verdict.

We continue to mourn Danny Pearl

Steven Goldstein
Wall Street Journal
"I will see whether who wants to kill me will first kill me or get himself killed," he said, according to his lawyer, Rai Bashir.

His three co-accused, Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Adil, were also found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, which usually means 25 years in jail in Pakistan.

Execution in Pakistan is usually by hanging, but Omar Sheikh's defence team says it will appeal against the ruling to the Sindh High Court and to Pakistan's Supreme Court if necessary before the sentence is carried out.

Pakistani newspaper vendor with Pearl special edition
The news quickly hit the streets
Security is tight in the southern city of Hyderabad, as police and soldiers surround the prison where the trial took place amid fears of a backlash by militant supporters of the defendants.

Pearl, 38, was kidnapped in Karachi while researching Islamic fundamentalism for the Wall Street Journal.

He was taken by the previously unknown National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, who demanded the release of al-Qaeda and Taleban fighters being held by the Americans in Cuba in return for Pearl's release.

Omar Sheikh was accused of masterminding Pearl's killing, which was filmed in gruesome detail and sent to US officials.

'One step'

There has been enormous international pressure on the Pakistani authorities to show results in this case, but the proceedings have been shrouded in secrecy, with journalists denied access to the trial.

Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl went missing in Karachi
The Pearl family said in a statement that it was "grateful for the tireless efforts by authorities in Pakistan and the United States to bring those guilty of Danny's kidnapping and murder to justice."

But the family also said it hoped that others sought in the case would be eventually be brought to justice.

Pearl's widow, Mariane, was pregnant when her husband was abducted and has since given birth to a son, Adam, in Paris.

In New York, Steven Goldstein, vice-president of the Wall Street Journal's parent company, Dow Jones, hailed the verdict.

"We continue to mourn Danny Pearl. And we continue to hope that everyone responsible for his kidnapping and murder will be brought to justice," Mr Goldstein said in a statement.

"Today's verdict is one step in that direction."


Defence lawyer Rai Bashir alleged that the court was pushed into the verdict by the Pakistani Government to please the United States.

Pakistani soldier stands guard in Hyderabad
Security in Hyderabad has been heightened
"President (Pervez) Musharraf had already announced that he wanted the death penalty for Omar," Mr Bashir said.

Omar Sheikh's father, Ahmed Saeed, said his son was "relaxed and composed" after learning he had been sentenced to death.

"My son was innocent before the trial even started, but the president of Pakistan awarded the death sentence to him and through the court today the same sentence was announced," he said.

On the streets of Hyderabad, where the trial was held, reaction was mixed.

One man said if those on trial had carried out the murder, then they deserved to be punished.

But another man said they were expecting the verdict "because Pakistan has to accept the dictates of the US."

The British Foreign Office said it welcomed the guilty verdict, but opposed the death penalty in all circumstances.

The prosecution's case appeared to rest on a confession by Omar Sheikh that he later retracted, and the evidence of a taxi driver who testified that he had seen him meeting Pearl at a Karachi restaurant the night he disappeared.

Death threats

The trial originally began in Karachi but was moved to Hyderabad about 150 kilometres (90 miles) away, after prosecutors said they were receiving death threats.

"We are taking extraordinary security measures to an extent that have never ever been taken in the history of Hyderabad," said Abdul Rauf Yusufzai, Inspector General of the city.

The trial has angered Islamic militants, who accuse Pakistan's government of betraying them by abandoning the Afghan Taleban and supporting the United States after 11 September.

On Saturday, Pakistani newspapers received an e-mail purportedly from Asif Ramzi, one of those sought in the Pearl case, threatening more attacks against foreigners.

The four convicted men were also ordered to pay 500,000 rupees ($8,330) each to Pearl's widow.

A body that police believe may be that of Mr Pearl was found in May, but the results of DNA tests have yet to be announced.

The BBC's Frances Harrison
"The sentence is not expected to be carried out immediately"

The victim

The militant

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See also:

15 Jul 02 | South Asia
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15 Jul 02 | UK Politics
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