Lawyers query US extradition bid in Pearl case
ISLAMABAD- Lawyers on Tuesday questioned America’s right to seek the extradition of a man suspected of masterminding the kidnap of murdered US reporter Daniel Pearl for offences not committed on US soil.
US officials said on Monday that Washington might seek the extradition of British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh by applying a colonial-era treaty.
They said Washington believed the 1931 treaty with Britain – then the colonial ruler of the territory on which Pakistan was established in 1947 – was still in effect. The two sides have used the 1931 treaty in the past to extradite people.
But the lawyers said it might not be as easy this time because the offences committed in relation to Pearl’s abduction were committed in Pakistan.
“If an offence is committed in Pakistan, then the person has to be tried here under the Pakistani laws,” said Abid Hassan Minto, a prominent lawyer.
“Extradition cannot be done off the cuff. There should be criminal cases against the person in the country where he is to be extradited,” he said.
Another lawyer, Khawaja Haris Ahmed, said the US administration would face difficulty in securing Sheikh Omar’s extradition “because none of the parts of the offence were committed on US territory.”
Sheikh Omar is being questioned by Pakistani investigators and is yet to be formally charged with any offence over Pearl’s kidnapping and murder.
The defence lawyer for three other suspects held with Sheikh Omar said he would welcome his clients being extradited to the United States because they would get a fairer trial there.
Khawaja Naveed said that if Omar was extradited then his three clients should also be extradited.
“How can the United States try Sheikh Omar without the testimony of my three clients who are co-accused?” Naveed told in an interview.
“Anyway I would prefer my clients tried in the United Sates because they would get a fairer hearing there,” Naveed said. “Everyone gets a fair trial in the United States.”
Naveed said that if Sheikh Omar was extradited for trial the United States would need to take over “the whole machinery in Pakistan” of the investigation into the case including witnesses, police officers and evidence.
“So it will cost a lot. But they can afford it. It is America,” Naveed said.
“They can send one plane and everyone can get on it. They came all the way over here and took over all of Afghanistan. This is one person. No problem for the USA.”
AL QAEDA LINKS
Sheikh Omar shot to prominence in 1994 when Indian police arrested him and accused him of involvement in the kidnapping of an five tourists – four Britons and one American – in India.
“Even in this case, the United States would face a problem in seeking Omar’s extradition because … the crime was committed against an American national but (it was) not on US territory,” lawyer Ahmed said.
“They might try to link these cases to the activities of the al Qaeda network and then seek his extradition for being part of an anti-US conspiracy,” he said, referring to the network of Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in September 11 hijacked airliner attacks on the United States.
Indian police have linked Sheikh Omar to the September 11 attacks, accusing him of involvement in the transfer of $100,000 to Mohammad Ata, one of the pilots who flew two airliners into New York’s World Trade Centre.
Source: Business Recorder