(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a 4 April 2002 CPJ press release:
CPJ CALLS FOR JUSTICE IN THE PEARL CASE
Concern Raised About Whether Trial Will Be Open to Reporters
New York, April 4, 2002---The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) commends the efforts of Pakistani authorities to apprehend and prosecute the killers of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The trial of four men charged with the journalist's kidnapping and murder is scheduled to begin tomorrow, April 5. Seven others accused in the case remain at large.
"Around the world, crimes against journalists are routinely committed with impunity," said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. "We hope that the extraordinary level of international attention to the murder of Daniel Pearl will help to ensure that his killers are brought to justice."
Pearl, 38, was apparently abducted on January 23 in the port city of Karachi while investigating a story about Islamic militants. On February 21, after receiving a videotape containing graphic evidence of Pearl's murder, U.S. government officials confirmed that he had been killed by his captors.
Pearl's body has not been recovered.
Pakistani police have accused British-born militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh of masterminding Pearl's kidnapping. The three other defendants--Salman Saqib, Fahad Naseem, and Sheikh Mohammed Adeel--were allegedly involved in sending e-mail messages to news organizations announcing Pearl's abduction.
On March 14, a U.S. grand jury indicted Saeed on charges of hostage-taking and conspiracy to commit hostage-taking resulting in the murder of Daniel Pearl. However, Pakistani officials have so far resisted American requests for Saeed's extradition.
The four suspects in custody will be tried in Pakistan by a special anti-terrorism court. Citing security considerations, the government has ordered the trial to be conducted inside Karachi's Central Jail. "It will be an open trial with reasonable restrictions," said chief prosecutor Raja Qureshi, according to international wire service reports. He did not specify whether there would be provisions for media access to the proceedings.
"With issues of national and international importance at stake in this trial, it is crucial that proceedings be conducted in an open and transparent manner," said Cooper. "We therefore urge Pakistani authorities to allow journalists to witness the hearings."
For more information about press conditions in Pakistan, visit www.cpj.org. CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.