Accused in Pearl case indicted
KARACHI- Ahmed Saeed Omar Shaikh, the alleged mastermind of a US journalist’s kidnapping, and three other accused denied on Monday their involvement in the case when an anti-terrorism court formally indicted them.
The four accused pleaded “not guilty” when Judge Abdul Ghafoor Memon of the ATC-2 read out the charges of kidnapping, murder, abetment and criminal conspiracy under sections 356-A, 302, 109 and 120-B of Pakistan Panel Code (PPC). They were also charged with creating harassment and terror in society under sections 7, 8 and 11 of the Anti-terrorism Act.
Except for the three defence counsel and court staff, no one was allowed to attend the court proceedings, being conducted inside Central Prison, Karachi. The media persons who thronged the jail at 8:30am, waited outside for the defence lawyers till 3:30pm.
Khwaja Naveed Ahmed, attorney for Fahad Naseem and Asil Shaikh, later briefed newsmen on the court proceedings.
At the outset, Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) Tariq, the process server, appeared in the court and informed that he could not track down the seven absconding accused.
The court separated the case of the absconders – Amjad Hussain Farooqui alias Haider Farooqui alias Hasan, Asif alias Qasim, Hashim, Qari Abdul Qadeer, Hasan alias Ahmed Bhai, Imtiaz Siddiqui and a person who bought a Polaroid camera, and the court ordered to keep the case on a dormant file.
The defence counsel said the prime accused stated that he did not recognize this court when the judge formally arraigned him in the case. “I want to be tried by a Shariat court,” he said.
The defence counsel said the judge recorded his remarks on the paper containing the charges. Later, the prosecution produced its first and star witness, the taxi driver, Nasir Abbas, who last drove and dropped Daniel Pearl, the US journalist. The taxi driver also identified the prime suspect as one of the kidnappers.
The 32-year-old taxi driver deposed on oath that on Jan 23 a taxi drier, Faisal Afridi, told him at Do Talwar in Clifton that some people at Zamzama Street in Clifton needed two cabs for Sheraton Hotel.
The taxi driver said the passengers were a journalist, his wife and another woman who were already standing there. He said a white car, occupied by four people, stopped ahead of his cab as he reached near Village Restaurant. He said Ahmed Saeed Omar Shaikh was the man who got down from the white car and made the journalist sit in his car.
Abdul Waheed Katpar, attorney for Omar Shaikh, Rai Bashir, attorney for Salman Saqib, and Khwaja Naveed, attorney for Fahad Naseem, also cross-examined the prosecution witness.
During the cross-examination by Khwaja Naveed, the taxi driver said he did not know how far the residence of the late prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was from Do Talwar. He also said his brother was in the police department.
Abdul Waheed Katpar withdrew his application of contempt of court against President Pervez Musharraf.
The US journalist, whose body has not yet been found, was allegedly kidnapped in front of a restaurant near Metropole Hotel on Jan 23. A video-tape received by the US consulate in Karachi on Feb 21 documented his murder.
The judge put off the hearing of the case to Tuesday when the prosecution would produce more witnesses against the accused.