Daniel Pearl killing
In an open letter, Reporters Without Borders calls on the president Pervez Musharraf to ensure that the full facts are uncovered about the killing of Daniel Pearl.
His Honourable Pervez Musharraf
President of the Republic
Islamabad – Pakistan
Paris, July 15, 2004
Dear Mr. President,
It is two years to the day since Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh, better known as Omar Sheikh, was sentenced to death by an anti-terrorist court in Hyderabad for the abduction and murder of Daniel Pearl.
The Wall Street Journal reporter disappeared on January 23, 2002 while he was researching the story of British “shoe-bomber” Richard Reid. On May 17, police in Karachi discovered the journalist’s decapitated body in the garden of a house in the suburbs of PakistanÂ¹s economic capital. On July 15 Omar Sheikh was sentenced to be hanged and his three accomplices to life imprisonment.
Since this verdict, there have been fresh developments and it seems to us to be important that your government continues to do everything possible so that those who carried out and those who ordered the killing are identified, arrested and tried.
On January 18, 2004, Omar Sheikh was transferred by helicopter from Hyderabad prison to Adiala detention centre near Rawalpindi (close to Islamabad). Interior ministry spokesman Abdur Rauf Chaudhry described it as a security measure. He said, “Dangerous criminals form themselves into groups if they are allowed to stay in the same place for too long. That is why they are moved to different prisons”.
But other sources, in particular those quoted by the daily New York Times, reported a link with the assassination attempt against you on December 25, 2003. The move would therefore have been to interrogate Omar Sheikh on the implication of his group, Jaish-e-Mohammad, in the suicide bombing. In fact one of the bombers was a Kashmiri and former Jaish-e-Mohammad militant. Another line was given by the newspaper Dawn that said that the military Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) based in Rawalpindi, wanted to question Omar Sheikh about his links with Al-Qaeda.
The two judges at the Sind High Court in charge of Omar Sheikh’s appeal and that of his accomplices asked the authorities on February 17, 2004 to explain the transfer. His lawyer had asked for his client to be brought before the court. “I asked for a medical examination for Omar because he could have been tortured in Rawalpindi”, he told the press. “However the court wants to examine the transfer order before deciding about the medical examination.” The lawyer also pointed out that the transfer violated Articles 29, 41 and 161 of the prison code that that forbids the transfer of a prisoner awaiting an appeal out of the High Court’s jurisdiction. On their part, the prison authorities presented a federal government transfer order for Omar Sheikh with no further explanation. The federal government replied to the court on February 26 that the reasons for the transfer could not be revealed because they related to a sensitive matter. Since then the authorities have confined themselves to advancing security reasons to explain the decision.
Reporters Without Borders would like to be informed about the precise reasons for the transfer of Omar Sheikh, all the more so since his appeal in southern Sind Province has been blocked by this decision.
In connection with this appeal, Reporters Without Borders is also concerned about procedural delays. On January 21 the Sind High Court once again adjourned the appeal entered by the murderer’s lawyers in December 2002. Recently, the lawyer for the appellants Fahad Naseem, Salman Saqib and Sheikh Mohammed Adeel and the prosecutor representing the state, failed to appear in court. According to several journalists following the case in Karachi, the government representative did not appear to be in any hurry to expedite the trial. Again our organisation would like to be informed of any reasons that could explain the governmentÂ¹s unwillingness to see this appeal process go forward.
In the event of an appeal trial, Reporters Without Borders asks you to intervene with the relevant authorities so that journalists can attend the trial hearings. During the first trial, the press was excluded from the proceedings.
Independently of this appeal, our organisation wonders if there are to be other charges against people who have been arrested in the past few months. On April 16, 2003, Fazal Karim, one of the chief suspects in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, was remanded in custody for drug possession in Thatta district (Sind province). According to several sources, Karim was arrested in July 2002, by Pakistani security forces and the CIA in Karachi, at the same time as other suspects in the investigation into the killing of the Wall Street Journal reporter. According to his lawyer, police then secretly and illegally detained Karim for nearly eight months.
On May 29, 2003, it was the turn to be arrested of Qari Abdul Hai, suspected leader of the Islamist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, at Muzaffargarh (near Multan, east-central Pakistan). Despite being suspected of involvement in the kidnapping he was not charged in the case. He was appearing in court for the murder of six Shiites in 1994, a crime for which he is at risk of a death sentence.
In October 2003, US administration officials told the Wall Street Journal that they suspected a direct responsibility on the part of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, number 3 in the terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda, who was arrested in Pakistan in March 2003. Karim apparently told Pakistani investigators that he saw the al-Qaeda leader slit the journalist’s throat. This report that was carried in January by American magazine Time has not been confirmed either by the Pakistanis or the Americans. Reporters Without Borders intends to apply in the next few days to the US government, which is detaining Khalid Sheikh Mohammed secretly, to seek additional information on his implication in the murder of Daniel Pearl.
Finally, Pakistani police said on April 16, 2004 that they had arrested two further suspects in the case. Malik Tasaddaq and Nadir Khan, alias Sajjad, militants in Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, were questioned separately in Punjab province. An intelligence official quoted by Agence France-Presse, said that Tasaddaq, who was arrested in March, reportedly took photos of Daniel Pearl during his captivity.
Since the conviction of Omar Sheikh and his three accomplices, at least five other suspects have been picked up in Pakistan. These successes on the part of the security forces should continue before the courts. During the Omar Sheikh trial, investigators said that seven suspects were on the run. Does this mean that there are now only two suspects still at large?
Moreover, last May you confirmed to the Pakistani television channel Geo TV that one of the suspects still on the run in the Daniel Pearl murder case could also be the brains behind attempts on your life in December 2003. Anonymous Pakistani sources said it could be Amjad Hussain Farooqi, alias Haider, leader of the jihad groups Lashkar-e-Jangvi and Jaish-e-Mohamed, whom police have actively been seeking since January 2002. Last June, a news website Asia Times Online quoted Pakistani sources as saying that Farooqi had already been arrested by Karachi security forces and would be “produced” when required.
Reporters Without Borders considers that it is necessary for public opinion to know if these men, suspected of having ordered or participated in the murder of Daniel Pearl, will be accused and tried for this crime. It seems to us important that, two years after the trial, the Pakistani government should continue to work for justice to be done in the killing of the journalist.
In addition, the authorities have never clarified the fate of the three suspects, who led to the body of Daniel Pearl and who apparently in 2003 made new revelations about the murder.
In the same way, Reporters Without Borders asks you to intervene personally so that the suspects still on the run are actively sought by the police and can be arrested as soon as possible. Some suspects, Pakistani nationals, are believed linked to the extremist group Harakat ul-Mujahideen al-Alami.
Despite serious concern about exposing Daniel PearlÂ¹s relatives and friends to the pain of a new trial, Reporters Without Borders reminds you of the demands of justice in this case. It is your duty, in collaboration with the US authorities, to identify and try all those who had any part in the murder.