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Defense Attacks Testimony in Pearl Murder Trial - 2002-04-23

The trial of four men accused of abducting and murdering U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl continued for a second day Tuesday in Karachi, Pakistan. Two police officers testified they heard the alleged leader of the kidnappers, Ahmed Omar Sheikh, admit his role in the crime, but defense lawyers have said the testimony should not be admissible because the confession was not made under oath.

Two Karachi police officers told the court they hear Ahmed Omar Sheikh admit his role in the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl at a hearing on February 14, when he was initially detained in the case.

Sheikh Omar, as he is known locally, is on trial with three alleged accomplices in the case. All four say they are innocent. Seven other suspected co-conspirators remain at large. If found guilty the four defendants could face the death penalty.

Defense attorneys objected to Tuesday's testimony, saying the statements made by Sheikh Omar in February were not made under oath and should not be admissible. Prosecutors said they simply wanted to establish that Sheikh Omar made the statements.

The court heard testimony from another witness, Jamil Yusuf, who heads the Karachi citizens-police liaison committee. The witness for the prosecution said he heard Daniel Pearl make final arrangements to meet one of the seven men still being sought in the case just hours before he disappeared. Mr. Yusuf's testimony was interrupted by one of the four accused men on trial, Salmon Saquib, who called him "an agent of the Jews" and said he was "working against Muslims."

The trial at the Karachi Central Jail is being held behind closed doors and extra security has been added, authorities have said, to prevent attack by extremists.

Daniel Pearl disappeared in Karachi on January 23, while investigating Islamic extremist ties to the alleged shoe bomber Richard Reid, who is accused of trying to detonate explosives hidden in his shoes, while on an American Airlines flight from Europe to the United States last December.

Mr. Pearl's death was confirmed, a month after his abduction, in a video showing his gruesome murder. His body has yet to be found.