Musharraf, Powell discuss extradition in Pearl case
WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD- President Pervez Musharraf called US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Tuesday about the possible handover of the man suspected of organising the kidnap of murdered US reporter Daniel Pearl.
The United States wants custody of the man, British-born Islamic radical Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, either by extradition under a 1931 treaty or by the simpler rendition process adopted in previous cases between Pakistan and the United States.
Extradition cases must go through the court system while governments can sometimes arrange renditions simply by executive agreement, without recourse to the courts.
Musharraf made the call to Powell after talks in Islamabad with US ambassador Wendy Chamberlin, also on the rendition request, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
“The Pakistanis are examining our request and we’ll continue these discussions to make sure the common desire on both sides to see that justice is served is in fact brought to fruition,” the spokesman told a briefing.
In Islamabad, a US embassy spokesman said he could not give details of the discussions. He declined to say whether President Musharraf favoured the idea.
In at least two previous cases, the United States took custody of men arrested in Pakistan without recourse to extradition procedures, which can be lengthy.
But both men, Ramzi Yousuf and Mir Amal Kasi, were accused of crimes committed in the United States. Yousuf is the convicted ringleader of the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing, and Mir Amal Kasi has been convicted of a shooting spree outside CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
Soon after Musharraf’s meeting with ambassador Wendy Chamberlin, Sheikh Omar appeared in a Karachi court under heavy security for formal identification by a Pakistani reporter as the man he introduced to Pearl shortly before the Wall Street Journal reporter disappeared on January 23 in Karachi.
A police source said the witness was an Islamabad-based journalist who briefly assisted Pearl on a story about possible links between Pakistani Islamic radicals and Osama bin Laden, chief suspect in the Sept 11 attacks on the United States.
Sheikh Omar’s appearance came a day after a Karachi anti-terrorism court ordered him and two other suspects detained for another 14 days to give investigators more time to find Pearl’s body as part of efforts to build a case against them.
Police are hunting the killers after a videotape showing Pearl’s decapitated body surfaced in Karachi last Thursday. The tape appears to give no clue as to when or where he was killed.
Apart from four suspects already in custody, police are searching for at least seven other people across the country, including an Arab man with possible links to bin Laden.
But a lack of leads is bedevilling the manhunt, a source close to the investigation said.
“Frustration is growing among investigators because there are no breakthrough,” the source said.
In Washington, law enforcement officials said the US Justice Department was strongly considering bringing criminal charges in Pearl’s kidnapping and murder.
US officials said Washington considered a 1931 extradition treaty with Britain – then the colonial ruler of the territory on which Pakistan was established in 1947 – was still in effect.
The US embassy spokesman confirmed extradition from Pakistan to the United States had occurred in the past under the treaty, but declined to give details of the cases.
DEATH PENALTY: As police questioned Sheikh Omar and three other suspects, the chief law officer handling the investigation said even those not directly involved in his murder could face the death penalty.
Sindh Advocate General Raja Qureshi said Pakistan’s anti-terrorism laws, under which the kidnappers would be tried, provided a maximum penalty of death by hanging and a minimum of life imprisonment for involvement in kidnap or murder.
“It could be murder, it could be kidnapping, it could be just involvement in terrorism, it could be financing promotion and encouragement of terrorism, it could be using modern devices such as e-mail,” Qureshi said.
The three other detained suspects are accused of sending ransom e-mails, some of which contained photographs showing Pearl with his hands in chains and a gun to his head.
Qureshi also said police had not lost hope of finding Pearl’s body, and were following up clues on the location of it and the murder weapon used to slit Pearl’s throat on camera.
“I have not lost hope and had there not been hope, police would not have asked for an extension of the suspects’ detention,” Qureshi added.
A senior police official said the search for Pearl’s body had been widened to central Punjab but that there had been no major developments.
Several of the seven suspects on the run come from the Punjab, including the man alleged to have carried out the kidnapping, Amjad Hussain Farooqi, known to Pearl as Imtiaz Siddiqui.-Reuters
Source: Business Recorder