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Pearl Was Concerned About Safety, Says Witness - 2002-04-24

A court in Karachi, Pakistan, heard testimony Wednesday that slain U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl was concerned for his safety in the days before he was kidnapped and murdered.

Asif Faruqi - a Pakistani journalist who worked as an assistant to Daniel Pearl - told the Karachi court the American journalist was concerned that his efforts to contact Pakistani Islamist leader Sheikh Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani might be dangerous. Mr. Pearl disappeared on January 23, when he went to meet with an intermediary who he believed would put him in contact with the Pakistani cleric.

Prosecutors said that intermediary was Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. Sheikh Omar - as he is known locally - and three other alleged accomplices in the case, are on trial for Mr. Pearl's abduction and murder and could face the death penalty, if convicted. All four deny the charges. Seven other suspected co-conspirators remain at large.

Asif Faruqi told the Karachi court Wednesday he and Daniel Pearl met with Sheikh Omar on January 11 and that Sheikh Omar promised to arrange a meeting between Mr. Pearl and Mr. Gilani, the Pakistani cleric. Days later Mr. Pearl disappeared.

The American reporter was investigating alleged ties between the Pakistani cleric and alleged shoe bomber Richard Reid, who is accused of trying to detonate explosives in his shoes, while on an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami, last December.

Mr. Gilani has been questioned by Pakistani police but has been not charged in connection with Mr. Pearl's abduction and murder. Prosecutors say they have evidence, in the form of e-mails, tying Sheikh Omar and his alleged accomplices to Mr. Pearl's disappearance and murder. His body has yet to be located.