‘Omar met Pearl as Ch Basheer in hotel’
KARACHI- Asif Mehfooz Farooqi an Islamabad based correspondent of JiJi News Agency Tokyo and a prosecution witness in Pearl murder case, identified Omar Sheikh before the ATC-II Karachi on Wednesday as the person who had met Pearl under the cover name of Chaudhry Basheer on January 11 in room 411 of Akbar International Hotel, Rawalpindi in his presence for three hours.
The defence lawyer Khwaja Naveed Ahmad informed this to the newsmen after four-hour close door proceedings of the court inside Central Prison. He said another defence lawyer Rai Basheer asked Asif Farooqi whether he or Daniel Pearl had any contact with Mosad or the US CIA. The witness replied to the question in negative and stated that it was true that Pearl was looking for Moulana Masood Azhar, the chief of Jaish-e-Muhammad in Pakistan, Khwaja said. “Pearl never visited any office of Harkat-ul-Mujahidin,” Khwaja quoted Asif as saying.
The court put off the hearing for tomorrow (April 25) after recording statement of the sixth witness Asif Forooqi, the counsel informed. He said Asif deposed before the court that he had met Daniel Pearl for the first time on Dec 29, 2001. Pearl had informed on Jan 5 about the arrest of one Richard Reid caught in France with explosive material concealed in his shoes. Pearl had clues regarding contact between Richard and Peer Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani and wanted to meet the Peer. On Pearl’s request Asif tried to find Peer’s whereabouts and came to know that Chudhary Basheer was Peer’s close associate and could arrange a meeting with him.
Asif deposed that he and Pearl met Chaudhry Basheer at a hotel in Rawalpindi on January 11. The meeting lasted for three hours and Pearl left Islamabad for Peshawar and returned on January 18. Returning from Peshawar, Pearl informed that he was leaving for Karachi as Basheer had promised to arrange a meeting with Peer. Pearl also told Asif that he would leave Karachi for Dubai after the meeting.
Khwaja went on to inform reporters that Asif stated that Pearl contacted him on his cell phone on Jan 23 (the day when Pearl disappeared) and sought his opinion whether he should go to the place, where he was supposed to meet Peer, or not. He wanted to know whether it would be dangerous to meet Mubarak. Asif had replied that Gilani was a public figure but the matter was purely on his (Pearl’s) own will.
Asif stated before the court that he received Mrs Pearl’s phone on Jan 24, who informed that her spouse was missing. Asif informed that he recorded his statement to police on February 5. He submitted that he also identified Sheikh Omar as Chudhry Basheer during identification parade held before Judicial Magistrate Karachi South.
Khwaja Naveed told newsmen that the court directed defence counsels to witness the videotape containing scenes of Daniel Pearl’s slaying in the chamber or in the courtroom. The court held that certified copy of the videotape could not be provided to the defence counsels.
Advocate General (AG) Sindh Raja Qureshi in his press briefing, late in the evening, told the mediamen that Sheikh Adil and Salman Saqib extended threatening gestures to him and the prosecution witness during court proceedings.
He said the matter was brought to the knowledge the trial court and it warned the accused and the matter was also recorded on the court order. To a question, he replied that he was feeling that his life was in danger, and it was for the first time in the 27 years of his professional life. He stated that he would report the incident in the SHC.
“We are taking certain measures for the security of prosecution and witnesses,” he said and added: “We are also examining the possibilities of in-camera trial.”
He said the prosecution, after examining the witness Asif Farooqi, has established the element of conspiracy in the case. Though police and any other allied agency failed to recover body of Daniel Pearl or the crime weapon so far, it was claimed by the AG Sindh several times that the prosecution had a very strong case, which was based on circumstantial evidences.
Source: The News