Pearl trial adjourns; judge retires to consider verdict

July 10, 2002, Wednesday, BC cycle

International News

By ZARAR KHAN, Associated Press Writer


The trial of four Islamic militants charged in the killing of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl wrapped up Wednesday with prosecutors calling for the death penalty.

Judge Ali Ashraf Shah scheduled court proceedings for Monday to hand down a verdict, although Pakistani courts sometimes delay such rulings beyond the scheduled delivery time. There is no jury, and Shah is the only judge deciding the case.

Lawyers for British-born militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three co-defendants argued for a dismissal of the charges, saying the evidence was inconsistent, legal procedures had been ignored and some of the evidence seemed to have been fabricated. The defense lawyers spent more than four days giving their final arguments. “All the evidence brought by the prosecution against the accused persons is doubtful. On the basis on such evidence, they cannot be convicted,” one of the defense lawyers, Rai Bashir, said Wednesday.

In his final summation, chief prosecutor Raja Quereshi said the evidence against the four was compelling and he dismissed defense arguments as “mere technicalities.”

“We have established that they are guilty,” Quereshi told reporters after the closed-door session. “We are demanding the death penalty for all four accused.”