Moin says US may not need Omar extradition
BALI- Pakistan said Wednesday it would consider handing over the suspected kidnapper of slain reporter Daniel Pearl to the United States, but assured Washington that Pearl’s killers would face stern justice in Pakistan.
Moinuddin Haider, interior minister, said the US government had “not given us an official request” for the extradition of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the alleged mastermind of Pearl’s Jan. 23 abduction.
“It is quite likely that when we find enough evidence against (Saeed), he can possibly be tried in Pakistan, for which he can get maximum punishment,” Haider said. “He will meet the ends of justice in Pakistan.” Haider said that once the US government makes a formal request, Pakistan would “evaluate the situation,” but he added it might not be necessary by then.
“Maybe the Americans, when they see that the trial is proceeding quite correctly in Pakistan … America may not actually ask,” Haider told reporters amid an international conference on human smuggling at Indonesia’s Bali island.
The minister also rejected reports in the international and Indian media that have linked the British-born Saeed to Pakistan’s powerful spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence. “Pakistan has many enemies,” the retired general said. “This is malicious and wrong propaganda, possibly spread by our enemies.”
The minister refused to say who these enemies might be. “Tell me, will the intelligence agency of Pakistan get any benefit from this?” Haider said. “This tragic and unfortunate happening on the territory of Pakistan will of course not bring any credit to Pakistan. Why should anybody who is patriotic to Pakistan indulge in such an act?”
In the past, Pakistan’s intelligence agency has reportedly cultivated close ties with Afghanistan’s former Taliban leaders and extremist Islamic groups trying to shake off Indian rule in the disputed provinces of Jammu and Kashmir.
Haider said Pakistan had placed Saeed under tight security and pledged that his government would take a “very transparent” approach to punishing those involved in the kidnapping of Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter.
After meeting with Pakistan’s president, the US ambassador said she is “not disappointed” with his response to American requests to hand over the key suspect in the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
But Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin said no decision has been made about whether Pakistan will deliver Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. The US administration said it wants to get its hands on the suspect, who already has been indicted in the United States in an earlier kidnapping.
Pakistan wants to hold on to Saeed for now — hoping he can help locate Pearl’s body and identify his killers, an interior ministry official said on condition of anonymity. Thus far, Saeed has not been known to provide any help. In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said it was made clear to President Pervez Musharraf during his meeting with Chamberlin that Washington wants Saeed sent to the United States, but he acknowledged Pakistan’s rights in the case. “A crime, a murder was committed in their country, and they have their own ways and laws of dealing with it. It’s not atypical at a time like that, when another nation makes a request, for that request to be considered, and it takes time,” Fleischer said.
In a telephone interview, Chamberlin said she had spoken several times with Musharraf in the past few months about the British-born Saeed. Except to say she was “not disappointed,” she declined to give details of her talks with Musharraf.
Officials in Karachi said they were working on the legal formalities for extraditing Omar but were awaiting formal instructions and information from the federal government. Washington has stepped up pressure for extradition on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who Tuesday met US Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin and spoke by telephone with Secretary of State Colin Powell.
“The United States will continue to make its case to Pakistan. Pakistan has received the case well,” said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. No Pakistani official would say how Musharraf responded to the US request, but one noted that Islamabad had agreed to extradition in the past.
“Although there is no formal extradition treaty between the United States and Pakistan, there are two precedents when Pakistan extradited terrorists wanted by the United States,” the official said.
Pakistan extradited to the US suspects in the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and outside the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters near Washington. Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider said Pakistan would consider a formal extradition request. “When they ask us officially we will evaluate the situation. But between Pakistan and America is the UK, whose national Sheikh Omar is,” he said, Indonesia, on the sidelines of regional people-smuggling conference.
British High Commission (embassy) spokesman Paul O’Neil said he did not know what Omar’s nationality status is at present, nor whether he had sought consular assistance. But he said: “If he’s a dual national, then any assistance we could give him would be limited in the country of his other nationality.”
Asked whether Britain would object to Omar’s extradition to the United States, where he could face the death penalty if found guilty of murder, O’Neil said: “This is a matter for the relevant UK authority.”
US officials have said they believe a form of extradition treaty signed in 1931 by Washington and local authorities in what was then part of the British empire remains valid. CNN said Wednesday after a reporter viewed a copy of the video that Pearl appeared to be under duress when he made the statements. Pearl’s widow, Mariane, who is seven months pregnant with the couple’s first child, said her husband was forced to read the statement before being “stabbed in the most cruel and cowardly manner.”
Police are searching for at least seven suspects including Amjad Hussain Farooqi, who allegedly drove Pearl from a Karachi hotel on his way to meet a contact for his story. Ambassador Chamberlin Wednesday visited an investigation team in Karachi. Investigator and kidnapping expert Jamil Yusuf said: “she appreciated efforts done by the Pakistani authorities in whatever way they can to help the family of Daniel Pearl and their efforts for the investigation of this case.” Omar, whose full name is Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, was wanted by the United States even before Pearl’s abduction over the kidnapping of an American in India in 1994.
Source: The News