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Pearl Murder Trial Continues in Islamabad - 2002-05-13

The trial of four Islamic militants accused of kidnapping and killing an American journalist is continuing in Pakistan. The closed-door proceedings are being held in the southern city of Hyderabad.

Prosecutors say they produced a handwriting expert in the court on Monday who gave evidence about similarities of expression between several ransom messages and hand-written documents recovered from prime suspect, Ahmed Omar Sheikh.

The British-born Islamic militant widely known as Sheikh Omar has been accused of masterminding the kidnapping and murder of American reporter Daniel Pearl.

On Saturday, an American FBI agent appeared as a witness in the trial under tight security. He testified how investigators traced e-mail messages linking the defendants to the crime.

The electronic mail contained pictures of Daniel Pearl in captivity and threats to kill him. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has played an active part in the investigation of the killing of Mr. Pearl.

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

The defendants deny the charges of murder, kidnapping and terrorist activities against them. They are being tried under Pakistan's anti-terrorism law and could face death penalty if found guilty.