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Wife of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl files lawsuit against 23 members of Al-Qaeda, Pakistani bank and Islamic trust

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders supports the US lawsuit that Mariane Pearl has brought against Al Qaeda members, a Pakistani bank and an Islamic charity for their alleged role in the January 2002 murder of her husband, "Wall Street Journal" reporter Daniel Pearl. She said in a statement: "I am trying to find out the truth of what happened to Daniel for the sake of our family, our friends and for public information."

"We welcome the filing of a lawsuit in this tragic case, many aspects of which have remained obscure and unresolved," the press freedom organisation said. "The US courts must take up this case quickly in order to shed light on Pearl's murder and to bring those responsible and their accomplices to justice."

Pearl's widow filed her suit on 18 July 2007 in New York against Al-Qaeda members, Habib Bank of Karachi, which allegedly provided financial services to Al-Qaeda members, and the Al-Rashid Trust.

Those named in the lawsuit include alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is being held in Guantanamo. He is accused of beheading Pearl in Karachi in January 2002. Also named is Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was convicted and sentenced to death by a Pakistani court for kidnapping Pearl.

The suit also targets Fazal Karim, who is being held in Pakistan and who reportedly confessed to the Pakistani authorities that he beat Pearl when he tried to escape from his kidnappers, and held his head when he was decapitated.

The Al-Rashid Trust is an Islamic charity based in Pakistan and Afghanistan that is said to be close to jihadist groups. It did business with Habib Bank. Mariane Pearl believes it provided logistic support to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Al-Qaeda, and that they therefore effectively encouraged the plot against her husband.

The Pakistani government banned the trust this year with the aim of drying up the sources of financing for terrorist networks.

On 19 July, Habib Bank vice-president Zafar Aziz Osman reacted to the lawsuit, saying: "We have never been involved in any terrorism."

According to the information available to Reporters Without Borders, three other Islamists - Salman Saquib, Fahad Nassem and Sheikh Adil - have been sentenced to death by a Pakistani court in connection with Pearl's murder.

Five other persons are detained in Pakistan in connection with the Pearl murder but the current state of the proceedings against them is unclear. They include Qari Abdul Hai, Malik Tassadaq and Nadir Khan, all members of the Islamist group Lashkar-Jhangvi, who were arrested on 23 May 2003 and 16 April 2004. Their appeal is still pending.

No information is available about Hashim Qadeer and Mohammed Sohail, who are also suspected of participating in Pearl's kidnapping and murder but have not yet been tried.

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