Official confirms remains are those of slain reporter

Saturday, July 20, 2002

KARACHI, Pakistan -- DNA tests have confirmed that a body found in a shallow grave in Pakistan is that of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, a U.S. official said Friday.

Pakistani police have been informed of the results, the official said in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity. The official said the test results had been known for some time.

Pearl disappeared Jan. 23 in Karachi while researching links between Pakistani extremists and Richard C. Reid, arrested in December on a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives in his shoes. A body believed to be the American correspondent's was found in May near a shed in Karachi where he disappeared.

But U.S. and senior Pakistani officials earlier Friday indicated the remains were most likely Pearl's but refused to positively confirm it.

The reporter's decapitated body was found near a mud hut in which police said they recovered a car seat on which Pearl was sitting in photographs that accompanied e-mails sent to media outlets by his kidnappers. Pieces of clothing that resembled those Pearl was wearing in the photographs were also found there, according to police.

A court on Monday convicted Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, 28, and three others in the Pearl case. Saeed was sentenced to death by hanging, and the others received life imprisonment, which in Pakistan means 25 years.

Appeal filed

On Friday, Saeed's attorney filed an appeal with the High Court of Sindh province, claiming the verdict was based on "fake, false and provenly planted evidence."

Three other defendants in the case -- Salman Saqib, Fahad Naseem and Shaikh Adil -- filed appeals on Wednesday. Seven others are being sought.

The DNA tests are sensitive because they could prompt the appeals court to order a new trial. Police were led to the grave by three men who have not been charged in the case. Defense attorneys maintained their clients were innocent and accused authorities of stalling on charging the three others to avoid undermining their own case.

"Two high court judges will hear this appeal, and I am 100 percent confident that justice will be done," Saeed's lawyer, Abdul Waheed Katpar, said.

Saeed's father said he hoped the court handling the appeal would not bow to external pressure, as he claimed the anti-terrorist court had done.

"The high court is comprised of senior, experienced and independent judges," Saeed Ahmed Sheikh told The Associated Press on Friday. "The high court is much more independent than the court that held the trial."

If the appeals are denied at the provincial level, the four can take their case to the Supreme Court. If the appellate court throws out the conviction, the prosecution can ask the Supreme Court to reinstate it.

The appeals process can take more than a year, although the courts are expected to handle this politically sensitive case expeditiously.

Saeed admitted his role in the kidnapping during his initial court appearance Feb. 14 but later recanted. His statement was considered inadmissible because it was not made under oath.

The United States has asked Pakistan to extradite Saeed to face charges in the Pearl case and in the 1994 kidnapping of another American, who was freed unharmed in India.

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