ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ The U.S. indictment of the key suspect in the kidnapping of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl will not hasten his extradition to the United States, Pakistan officials said Friday.
A U.S. court indicted Muslim extremist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh on Thursday out of concern that Pakistani authorities might release him. But Pakistan says it reserves the right to prosecute Saeed before considering whether to allow the United States a chance to try him.
``Investigations are going on,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan told The Associated Press. ``Once the investigations are completed, it would be decided whether he has to be tried here or to be extradited.''
Pakistan does not have an extradition treaty with the United States, although officials of the two governments are considering ways he might be handed over. The issue is unlikely to cause any friction between the two countries because Pakistan is a principal ally of the United States in war against terrorism.
A federal grand jury in Trenton, N.J., indicted Saeed on charges of conspiring to take Pearl as a hostage and then kidnapping him. Since the Jan. 23 kidnapping resulted in the Wall Street Journal reporter's death, Saeed could face the death penalty if he is brought to the United States and convicted.
The charges were filed in New Jersey because Saeed is accused of sending e-mails to Pearl that were relayed electronically through the Journal's computer network in South Brunswick, N.J., officials said.
Saiful Molook, Saeed's lawyer, said the U.S. indictment was ``unfair'' because no crime was committed on American soil and that under Pakistani law, a person cannot be extradited who faces criminal charges in Pakistan.
Pakistani investigators have failed to bring charges against Saeed despite holding him in custody for over a month, Molook said by telephone from the eastern border city of Lahore.
``Now they are trying to fabricate charges against him,'' Molook said.
Raja Quereshi, the chief prosecutor, said he hasn't received any papers regarding Saeed's indictment in the United States. The decision to extradite Saeed will be taken purely by the government, he said.
On Tuesday, a defiant Saeed told a judge in Pakistani port city of Karachi that Americans will suffer if he is sent to the United States. Saeed, who trained at Afghan military camps and fought with Taliban and al-Qaida fighters last September and October, also warned that if he were killed, Americans would ``suffer the consequences.''
Announcing the indictment in the United States, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Saeed ``methodically set a death trap for Daniel Pearl, lured him into it with lies and savagely ended his life.''
Prosecutors believe the kidnapping plot was hatched in January ``to take hostage a journalist from a U.S newspaper in order to affect U.S. government policies,'' according to the indictment.
U.S. officials in Pakistan received a videotape showing him decapitated. The exact date of Pearl's slaying remains unknown.