Omar says he thinks Pearl is dead
KARACHI- The prime suspect in the Daniel Pearl kidnapping case, Shaikh Omar Ahmed Saeed, said on Thursday as far as he understood the US journalist was dead.
The suspect, who was produced around 12 noon before the Anti- Terrorism Court No. 3 by the police for seeking his custody for interrogation, also admitted before the court: “I did kidnap,” adding: “I don’t want to defend the case.”
The Shaikh, muffled in a scarf, was brought to the court in an armoured personal carrier (APC) amid extraordinary security arrangements.
At the very outset of the proceedings, the Advocate-General (AG) of Sindh, Raja Qureshi, objected to the presence of media persons in the courtroom and requested Judge Arshad Noor Khan to order “all irrelevant people” to leave the courtroom.
The AG submitted that the suspect’s face may not be shown to the general public as it could affect the identification parade.
The judge told the AG that he was not sure if any eyewitness was present in the court. “The investigation officer and the learned advocate-general have not satisfied me that there was any eyewitness among those present inside the court, from whom the identification parade to be conducted or is likely to be affected,” the judge observed in his short order.
The AG insisted that the suspect might not be unmuffled unless all the “irrelevant people” were sent outside the court, and told the court that the suspect could always be produced in his chamber.
The judge ordered the media person to stay outside the court for a while so that the suspect’s face could be shown to him.
All journalists, except for three lady journalists and two male journalists, including those belonging to foreign media, left the courtroom.
The judge asked the investigation officer as to what was the evidence against the suspect. The officer replied that Shaikh Omar had been involved in jihad since 1999 and that the three suspects, earlier arrested by the police, had disclosed his involvement in the case. He said according to the three suspects, Shaikh Omar had financed the kidnapping.
The judge told the police investigator that the suspect could not be given in police remand on the general statement against him.
Another police investigator submitted before the court that the accused was arrested on a lead given by the three suspects. The judge asked how the “extra-judicial confession of the co-accused could be used against other co-accused.”
The AG submitted that the suspect was required for the identification parade and for the recovery of the abductee. He said Shaikh Omar was the main financier in the case and if the remand was refused, the entire investigation would be affected.
Then the judge heard Shaikh Omar, who was without beard but with three or four days stubble on his face. Speaking in fluent English, he told the court in a low voice that he did not want to defend the case against him. “I want to make it clear that I have my own reason,” he added.
Shaikh Omar, clad in an off-white shalwar-qamees, told the judge that he was not arrested by the police, rather he surrendered himself to the authorities on Feb 5 “to save my family from harassment.”
When asked by the judge if he was maltreated or tortured in the police custody, Shaikh Omar replied: “Karachi police is better than the police of any other province in respect of maltreatment.”
To another query, the suspect said he had deposed before the court on his freewill. “I understand that the US is asking my extradition,” the suspect further said.
The judge replied: “I would not be influenced by anyone.”
After hearing the suspect, the judge gave him to the police custody till Feb 25 for interrogation.
In his short order, the judge wrote: “Heard Raja Qureshi, the learned advocate-general. Accused Ahmed Umer Saeed Shaikh, son of Saeed Ahmed Shaikh, is present in police custody. He states that Karachi police is better than the police of any other province in the matter of maltreatment.
He, however, has not specifically stated that he has been maltreated by the police. The advocate-general states that the identification parade of the accused is to be held before the competent magistrate and that the abductee, who is a journalist of the Wall Street Journal, is to be recovered on the lead of the accused and also weapons are to be recovered as such the remand in police custody is very material for the purpose of the investigation.
“The accused has been produced with muffled face and Raja Qureshi objected that he may not be unmuffled unless all the irrelevant people present in the court are sent outside the court.” The suspect also prayed the court to provide him medical treatment.