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FBI Agent Testifies in Murder Trial of US Reporter - 2002-05-11

In Pakistan, an American FBI agent and two other witnesses testified Saturday at the trial of four Islamic militants accused of killing of U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl.

Chief Prosecutor Raja Qureshi said an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and two Pakistani witnesses testified during Saturday's proceedings. He says the FBI's Ronald Joseph explained to the court how investigators traced e-mail messages sent by the suspected kidnappers.

The electronic mail contained pictures of Daniel Pearl in captivity and threats to kill him. It is believed that, with the help of U.S. experts, Pakistani authorities seized computer equipment used to send those messages. That also led to the arrest of the alleged mastermind of the kidnapping plot, the British-born Ahmed Omar Sheikh.

Mr. Pearl disappeared in the city of Karachi in January while researching a story on Pakistani militants. A video of his execution was delivered to the U.S. consulate in Karachi a month later. The body of the American reporter has not been found, neither has the weapon used to kill him.

Talking to VOA by telephone from the city of Hyderabad, where the trial is taking place, Chief Prosecutor Qureshi said he is confident of winning the case.

"Because the circumstantial evidence is so strong vis-ŕ-vis the element of kidnapping, vis-ŕ-vis the raising of a demand for ransom, vis-ŕ-vis the computer e-mail messages sent, along with the video recording, which reflects to be un-tempered, reflecting the slaughtering of deceased Daniel Pearl," the prosecutor said.

The four suspects are being tried under Pakistan's anti-terrorism law. It says a trial must be completed in seven days. The trial began on April 22, but the proceedings have been complicated and delayed by various legal wrangles.

The defendants have denied charges of murder, kidnapping and terrorist activities against them. They could face the death penalty, if found guilty. Seven other suspects remain at large.