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Pearl Murder Trial On Hold in Pakistan

In Pakistan, the trial of four men accused of abducting and murdering U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl is on hold until next week. The postponement will push the trial beyond its scheduled length of one-week.

The High Court in Pakistan's Sindh province said the case was postponed until Tuesday, to give defense lawyers time to study a petition submitted by the prosecution. The petition calls for the removal of the judge hearing the case. The court is expected to rule on the petition Tuesday.

Prosecutor Raja Querishi said Judge Abdul Ghafoor Memon has failed to maintain order in the courtroom, and allowed the four defendants to threaten witnesses. Mr. Querishi says he wants the judge transferred. "I am requesting for a transfer for a fair trial to secure the safe administration of justice," he said.

Defense lawyers deny that their clients are trying to intimidate witnesses. Khawaja Naveed Ahmed, a lawyer for the accused, said the prosecution simply wants a more sympathetic judge. "They want a judge of their own choice. For us all judges are respectable and all judges are fair," he said. "But this judge does not suit them, so it means they want to find some judge of their own choice."

Judge Memon is the second judge to hear the case. The original judge assigned to the case was removed before the trial began. At a pre-trial hearing, he heard the alleged ringleader of the crime, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, confess to masterminding the kidnapping and murder while he was not under oath.

Sheikh Omar, as he is known locally, has been identified by two witnesses who say he met with Daniel Pearl on January 11, and January 23, the day Mr. Pearl disappeared.

The Islamic militant and his three alleged accomplices face the death penalty if convicted. They deny involvement in the case. Seven other alleged co-conspirators remain at large.

Mr. Pearl, the South Asia Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal, was investigating ties between Pakistan-based Islamic militants and alleged shoe-bomber Richard Reid. He is charged with attempting to detonate explosives in his shoes and bring down an American Airlines plane over the Atlantic last December.

Mr. Pearl's death was confirmed in a gruesome video that showed him being beheaded. His body has yet to be found.