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Pakistan set to consider case of slain Wall Street Journal reporter

Updated:

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP)_ An attorney for three suspects held in the kidnapping of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl demanded Tuesday that Pakistan either charge his clients or let them go free.

Attorney Khawaja Naveed told reporters outside in this southern port city's courthouse that he's had no access to the three men in the weeks since police arrested them Jan. 30. Naveed accused the government of trying to stall the case because of intense international pressure to find those who kidnapped and later murdered Pearl.

``The police are fabricating evidence,'' he said.

Naveed said his three clients _ Fahad Naseem, Sheikh Mohammed Adeel and Salman Saqib _ are unable to construct their defense until formal charges are presented.

Dozens of police virtually sealed off the Karachi courthouse before Tuesday's hearing for the lead suspect, British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. It was not immediately clear if all of the suspects would appear Tuesday.

Saeed confessed during a court session last month that he abducted Pearl on Jan. 23, but has since withdrawn the statement, which was not made under oath and is considered inadmissible.

Prosecutors will likely present a case against Saeed using the testimony of a taxi driver, Nasir Abbas.

Abbas told police that on the night Pearl disappeared, he saw Saeed step out of white car and shake hands with the reporter. The two men then stepped into another vehicle.

A few weeks later, the FBI obtained a grisly videotape showing Pearl's execution. His body has not been recovered.

Pearl, the newspaper's South Asia bureau chief, was examining links between Pakistani extremists and Richard C. Reid, who was arrested in December on a Paris-Miami flight he allegedly boarded with explosives in his sneakers.

The United States has expressed interest in prosecuting Saeed, but President Pervez Musharraf's government said Pakistan wants to try him first before considering whether to extradite him.

Police are looking for several other suspects, including Amjad Hussain Faruqi, the man police believe actually abducted and held Pearl. Interior Ministry officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that immigration authorities have been ordered to prevent Faruqi and another alleged accomplice from leaving the country.

Pakistan is under pressure from the United States to hand over Saeed, who was indicted by the U.S. authorities for the 1994 kidnapping of another American in India. There is no extradition treaty between the United States and Pakistan but the two governments have been considering other legal ways to transfer Saeed to U.S. custody.
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