Daniel Pearl ‘refused to be sedated before his throat was cut’
Daily Times Monitor
Pakistani police believe that Daniel Pearl, the murdered Wall Street Journal reporter, knew for several hours that he was about to be killed but resisted repeated attempts to sedate him, according to a report in The Sunday Telegraph detailing police interrogations of new suspects in the case.
Massoud Ansari writes in The Sunday Telegraph that police recently arrested three new suspects in the case but are reluctant to officially announce their arrests or release new evidence because of the impact this might have on the conviction of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the Al Qaeda operative sentenced to life in prison for conspiracy to kidnap.
Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi in January 2002 and killed two weeks later. Video film of Pearl’s murder, seen around the world via the Internet, was in fact a partial reconstruction of what had happened a few moments earlier, police officers were told by recently arrested suspects. The camera operator made a mistake and missed the moment of his death, which his murderers then re-enacted, before decapitating the reporter.
The newspaper says at least a dozen leading suspects in the kidnap and murder of the 38-year-old journalist have been arrested, but have not been charged or tried in connection with his death. Some have been accused of unrelated - and mostly lesser - offences. “The three most recently captured suspects have not yet been charged, and their arrests have never been officially announced,” says the report.
The only cases brought so far in connection with Pearl’s death have been those against Omar Sheikh and three others who played relatively minor roles in the kidnapping. All were given life sentences, but are now appealing against their convictions in the high courts. Pakistani authorities are said to be reluctant to put the new suspects on trial lest their evidence helps the first four win their appeals.
“No matter what Sheikh is guilty of, if the police were forced to change their account of what happened because of newfound evidence, he might be given the benefit of the doubt on everything else, and be set free immediately,” a legal officer was quoted as telling the newspaper correspondent.
Omar Sheikh set the trap which lured Pearl to his captors. He put the reporter in touch with a man who would introduce him to an extremist Muslim leader whom Pearl wished to interview.
According to the report, contrary to evidence given during Omar Sheikh’s trial, police now believe he may not have been present when Pearl met Sajid Jabbar, the go-between, at a Karachi restaurant. It was after the meeting that Pearl disappeared.
Investigators say that senior officials in the Sindh police are “petrified” that if militants arrested in the past year were tried for their part in Pearl’s murder, their case against Omar Sheikh might unravel.
One official said: “Even if these men have admitted their roles in the kidnapping and killing of Daniel Pearl, we simply cannot charge them because of its impact on that earlier case.”
Police have pieced together new details of how Pearl was held in captivity for two weeks, and eventually killed, from those involved — including two who witnessed his final hours. Many of the details were unknown even to Mariane Pearl, the reporter’s widow.
Police now believe that Pearl was not forcibly abducted from the restaurant, but at first went willingly with Sajid in his car, while four other militants followed. He was driven to the house on the outskirts of Karachi where he was to be held and killed.
There, four others who would guard Pearl dragged him inside at gun-point, tying his hands and blindfolding him. “Even at this point, Pearl didn’t realise that he was already in trouble, and kept asking why they were behaving like this,” one of those in custody told police.
He was held for two weeks before he was killed but made at least one escape attempt, according to the arrested men, just three days before he was murdered.
“He tried to scale the wall but couldn’t do it because both his hands were tied,” one told police. His captors said that Pearl had difficulty sleeping. They brought him English-language newspapers and magazines to help him pass the time and let him exercise inside the room.
His efforts to converse with his captors were limited since they could speak only broken English. However, one said: “He made clear that he was a Jew and his wife a Buddhist. He used to imitate the way she prayed, and sing hymns and songs whenever he thought about her.”
Eventually, Saud Memon, who is believed to be Al Qaeda’s chief financier in Pakistan and owned the house where Pearl was held, contacted a group of Arab extremists who took over custody and decided he would be killed.
Armed with a video camera, three Arabs arrived, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, third-in-command of Al Qaeda - since handed over to the Americans.
For the first time, police have now identified the others as Abdul Rahman and Nasrullah - both Kuwaiti nationals fluent in Arabic, Balochi and Persian. Authorities are still searching for them.
On the day Pearl died, two of his Pakistani guards were present: Ali Khan, arrested just two weeks ago, and Fazal Karim, an employee of Saud Memon. One recently told interrogators how the Arabs tried to sedate Pearl, first by injection, then by doctoring his tea. “I think he understood that he was going to be killed and refused to accept tea or to gulp pills. He even did not allow himself to be injected.”
“Five others who took part in Pearl’s capture or guarded him are behind bars for their part in unrelated sectarian killings, and Pakistani authorities have no plans to press charges related to Pearl. Authorities have yet to reveal publicly that they are holding three of the suspects: Khan, Naeem Bokhari and Faisal Bhatti,” says the Telegraph report.