Pearl defense accuses Pakistani prosecutor of blasphemy; trial adjourned

  • From: "Muslim-News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 9 May 2002 08:47:46 +0100

Defense lawyer Rai Bashir on Wednesday accused the chief prosecutor of
committing blasphemy in the trial of Muslim militants charged in the
kidnap slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. 

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"Raja Quereshi made derogatory remarks against Islam," Bashir told
reporters. "He ridiculed Islamic laws and the sayings of the prophet
Muhammad and he did not show any respect in mentioning his name."
Quereshi, who won higher court approval last week to move the trial from
the restive port city of Karachi because he feared for his life, had
already left when Bashir made the accusation, which could have an
inflammatory effect on Islamic radicals in Pakistan. 

Before he left for an appearance elsewhere before the Supreme Court of
Pakistan, Quereshi said the move to Hyderabad was proved right Wednesday
by an explosion that killed nine French naval experts in Karachi,
Pakistan's largest city from where Pearl had disappeared Jan. 23. The
explosion was the latest in a string of terrorist attacks in recent
days, including drive by slayings of minority Muslim Shiites. 

The defendants Wednesday asked the court to declare invalid the trial,
which is being held for security reasons in a makeshift courtroom in the
Hyderabad Central Jail. 

Quereshi said the defendants were using "delaying tactics." 

"We think the court is not independent," Bashir quoted chief defendant
British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and his three
co-defendants as telling the judge. "It is working at the behest of Raja
Quereshi. It is one-sided." 

Reporters are barred from the courtroom, but lawyers are allowed to
describe proceedings to them outside. 

"Our government officials have gone too far in their friendship with the
Americans," Bashir quoted the defendants as saying. "They are committing
anti-Islamic acts. Those who are siding with the Americans are no longer
Muslims. They are inviting the wrath of God." 

Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has enraged Muslim
fundamentalists by siding with Washington in the war on terror after
reversing years of support for former hardline Taliban rulers in
neighboring Afghanistan. 

Bashir said the next session in the trial was scheduled for Saturday.
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the trial should continue this week
because two prosecution witnesses were coming the United States. 

Their names and jobs were not disclosed, but Quereshi has said two FBI
agents who traced e-mails sent by the kidnappers to news organizations
are on his witness list. 

The trial began April 22 in Karachi, but was suspended after only three
days of testimony. 

The four defendants have pleaded innocent to charges of murder,
kidnapping and terrorism. They face the death penalty if convicted. 

In the first three days of the trial, witnesses identified Saeed as a
man who made contacts with Pearl before he disappeared while researching
links between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, the man arrested
in December on a Paris-Miami flight with explosives in his shoes. 

A previously unknown group - the National Movement for the Restoration
of Pakistani Sovereignty - sent e-mails in January revealing it had
kidnapped Pearl. A videotape received Feb. 21 by U.S. diplomats in
Karachi confirmed Pearl, 38, was dead. His body has not been found. 

Source:  Associated Press

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