HYDERABAD, Pakistan – The trial of four Islamic militants charged in the killing of American reporter correspondent Daniel Pearl wrapped up Wednesday with prosecutors calling for the death penalty. A judge scheduled a verdict for Monday.
"We have established that they are guilty," chief prosecutor Raja Quereshi told reporters after the closed door session. "We are demanding the death penalty for all four accused."
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.
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.
In his final summation, Quereshi said the evidence against the four was compelling and he dismissed defense arguments as "mere technicalities."
Wall Street Journal reporter Pearl disappeared Jan. 23 while investigating links between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, who was arrested in December on a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives in his shoes. A videotape received by U.S. diplomats in Pakistan after the four defendants were in custody confirmed Pearl, 38, was dead.
The prosecution alleged that Saeed, a former student at the London School of Economics, lured Pearl into a trap by claiming he was arranging a meeting with an Islamic cleric who authorities say was not involved in the crime.
During the trial, which began April 22, the prosecution alleged that Pearl was abducted outside a restaurant in the restive port city of Karachi and held on the outskirts of city.
Remains of a body believed to be Pearl's were recovered in Karachi in May from a shallow grave near a shed where police believe he was held before being killed. DNA results are pending.
The gruesome three-minute videotape of Pearl's death was shown at the trial. Defense lawyers questioned its authenticity and admissibility in court, arguing that Pakistani law requires either a witness to the production of a video or the producer of the video to appear in court to authenticate it.
Defense lawyers accused the prosecution of fabricating the case to ease the Bush administration's outrage over the journalist's death.
The trial, which began on April 22 in southern Karachi, was transferred to the heavily fortified jail in Hyderabad, about 60 miles to the northeast, after prosecutors said their lives had been threatened.
Pearl disappeared while investigating links between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, who was arrested in December on a flight from Paris to Miami with explosives in his shoes.
The prosecution alleged that Saeed, a former student at the London School of Economics, lured Pearl into a trap, claiming he was arranging a meeting with an Islamic cleric who authorities say was not involved in the crime.
A few days after Pearl disappeared, e-mails were received by international and Pakistani news organizations showing the journalist in captivity. The e-mails, from the previously unknown National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty, also demanded better treatment for U.S. prisoners in Cuba.
One e-mail accused Pearl of working for the CIA. A second alleged he was an agent of the Israeli intelligence service and would be killed if the demands were not met.
FBI agents traced the e-mails to the laptop of one of the accused, Fahad Naseem, who police said identified Saeed as the mastermind. Police said Naseem quoted Saeed as saying he planned to kidnap someone who was "anti-Islam and a Jew."
Naseem's lawyer, however, claimed the confession was forced.
Saeed admitted his involvement during his first court appearance on Feb. 14 but later recanted. The statement was not made under oath and was not binding.
During the trial, Saeed's lawyer said police violated his client's rights by holding him for a week before announcing his arrest on Feb. 12. Pakistani law requires that suspects be arraigned within 24 hours of their arrest.
Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Saeed had been in the custody of Pakistan's intelligence service before the arrest was announced. The intelligence service has never confirmed the claim.
U.S. grand juries have indicted Saeed in the Pearl case and in the 1994 kidnapping of another American, who was released unharmed in India. Pakistan insisted it would try Saeed first.
Saeed joined Islamic extremist movements after traveling to the Balkans about 10 years ago. After training in Afghanistan, he went to India, where he was arrested in 1994 for kidnapping Westerners.
He was freed in December 1999 along with two other Islamic militants in exchange for the passengers and crew of an Indian Airlines jet that was hijacked to Kandahar, Afghanistan.