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Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 06:43 GMT 07:43 UK
Pearl killers to get appeal
 Pakistani police surrounding Omar Sheikh during the trial
Omar Sheikh claims he was a scapegoat
A high court in Pakistan has agreed to hear the appeals of the four men convicted for the abduction and murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl.

The judges at the Karachi high court decided to hear appeals by both defence and prosecution lawyers at a date still to be set.

British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was sentenced to death by hanging for masterminding the kidnap and murder in January.


The first decision against my son was based on injustice and some kind of pressure

Sheikh Ahmed Saeed, Omar Sheikh's father

The defence lawyers argue that the special court that tried the four men behind closed doors last month in the city of Hyderabad had not properly examined the evidence.

The prosecution is arguing that life sentences handed to the three alleged accomplices of Omar Sheikh should be increased to death penalties.

Sheikh's father, Sheikh Ahmed Saeed, who was in court, told reporters his son was convicted because of "injustice and some kind of pressure".

The four militants are being held in a high security prison 160 kilometres (100 miles) northeast of Karachi. None of the men appeared in court for the initial hearing.

Pearl photographs

The prosecution case apparently rested on a confession by Omar Sheikh, which he later retracted, and evidence by a taxi driver who said he had seen Mr Pearl meeting Omar Sheikh in Karachi the day he disappeared.

Daniel Pearl
Mr Pearl's body was found several months after he was killed

Mr Pearl had been researching Islamic militants in Karachi when he was abducted.

Photographs of the journalist in captivity were e-mailed to news organisations, along with demands for the release of al-Qaeda and Taleban suspects being held by the Americans.

Later, a gruesome video of Mr Pearl's murder was sent to US officials and his body was discovered in May.

'False accusations'

On Monday, Sheikh's brother Awais Sheikh told the BBC that his brother was innocent and had been brutalised during his interrogations and forced to make false statements.

He said the three accomplices were forced into making accusations against his brother.

"One of the co-accused complained via his lawyer that the police had been beating him quite brutally for hours, trying to make him sign a confession that pinpointed Omar Sheikh as the mastermind behind the kidnapping and he refused," Awais Sheikh said.

"The police then threatened to bring his mother and sister to the police station and gang rape them, at which point he signed the confession," he added.

Omar Sheikh claims American pressure on the Pakistani authorities to find whoever killed the US journalist led to him being used as a scapegoat.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Susannah Price
"There has been great pressure on the authorities to deliver results"
Awais Sheikh, brother of Omar Sheikh
"None of these allegations ever had any accompanying evidence"

The victim

The militant

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See also:

12 Aug 02 | Americas
08 Aug 02 | South Asia
27 Jul 02 | South Asia
19 Jul 02 | South Asia
17 Jul 02 | South Asia
15 Jul 02 | South Asia
10 Jul 02 | South Asia
16 Jul 02 | Media reports
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