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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 04:59 GMT 05:59 UK
Pearl murder verdict praised by US
 Pakistani police surrounding Omar Sheikh during the trial
Omar Sheikh will appeal against the verdict, say lawyers
The United States has welcomed the conviction in Pakistan of four Islamic militants on charges of abducting and murdering US journalist Daniel Pearl.


This is a further example of Pakistan showing leadership in the war against terror

White House spokesman
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British-born Islamic militant, was sentenced to death for masterminding Pearl's killing, which was filmed in gruesome detail and sent to US officials.

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.

Pearl, 38, was kidnapped in Karachi while researching Islamic fundamentalism.

Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl was lured to his death
"The administration welcomes Pakistan's verdict in this matter," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

"Daniel Pearl was brutally executed, and Pakistan's court system has now ruled.

"This is a further example of Pakistan showing leadership in the war against terror."

Omar Sheikh reacted defiantly to his death sentence.

He 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.

Appeal

Execution in Pakistan is usually by hanging.

Omar Sheikh's defence team says it will appeal against his sentence to the Sindh High Court and to Pakistan's Supreme Court if necessary.

Pakistani soldier stands guard in Hyderabad
Security in Hyderabad has been heightened following the verdict
There had been enormous international pressure on the Pakistani authorities to show results in this case.

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, praised 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."

'Innocent'

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

"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.

Much of the case was conducted behind closed doors. 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.

The trial has angered Islamic militants, who accuse Pakistan's government of betraying them by abandoning the Afghan Taleban and supporting the US after the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.

On Saturday, Pakistani newspapers received an email 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.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Adam Brookes in Karachi
"The city has been very jumpy"
Tom Jennings, friend of Daniel Pearl
"The Pearl family are quite content with this particular part of the trial"
Awais Sheikh, brother of Omar Sheikh
"My brother is not a terrorist"

The victim

The militant

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See also:

15 Jul 02 | South Asia
15 Jul 02 | South Asia
15 Jul 02 | UK Politics
21 Jun 02 | South Asia
10 Jul 02 | South Asia
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