Pearl Worried About Pakistani Meeting, Assistant Says

Slain Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl was concerned that a meeting he had requested with an Islamic fundamentalist might be dangerous, an assistant to the American reporter testified Wednesday.

Asif Faruqi, a journalist who was working for Pearl, was the sole witness on the third day of the trial of British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who is accused with three others in the Jan. 23 kidnapping and subsequent slaying of Pearl, said defense lawyer Khawaja Naveed.

All four have pleaded innocent to charges of murder, kidnapping and terrorism. They face the death penalty if convicted.

Reporters are barred from attending the trial, but Naveed said Faruqi testified that Pearl had called him briefly on Jan. 23 and asked whether it was dangerous to meet Sheik Mubarak Ali Shah Gilani.

Faruqi replied that it was not dangerous because Gilani was a public figure, Naveed said. It was Faruqi's last conversation with Pearl.

Pearl, who was the newspaper's South Asia correspondent, disappeared the same day. He was believed to be researching links between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, the man arrested in December on a Paris-Miami flight with explosives in his shoes.

Naveed said Faruqi, a Pakistani journalist, told the court that he had first met Pearl in December and that Pearl phoned him in January about a newspaper report saying there had been contacts between Reid and Gilani.

"Daniel Pearl asked Faruqi whether he could get him in contact with Gilani," Naveed said.

Faruqi said he contacted a friend who in turn put him in touch with an intermediary who said he could get through to Gilani, Naveed told reporters Wednesday after the three-hour session ended in a makeshift courtroom in the Karachi Central Jail.

On Jan. 11, Pearl and Faruqi had a three-hour meeting with a man calling himself "Chaudry Bashir" in a room of the Akbar International Hotel in Rawalpindi. Faruqi said the man was really Saeed and identified him as the defendant.

The man "promised Daniel Pearl he would get in touch with Gilani," Faruqi testified, according to Naveed.

Pearl went to Karachi on Jan. 18 in anticipation of the meeting, he said.

Faruqi said Pearl's wife, Mariane, a French free-lance journalist, phoned him Jan. 24 to say Pearl was missing. He said police interrogated him a few days later and then summoned him again to identify Saeed.

Prosecutors say Saeed sent e-mails to Pearl using the Chaudry Bashir alias.

Testimony in the trial, which began Monday, resumes Thursday.

Saeed, 28, also has been indicted in the Pearl case by a U.S. federal grand jury in New Jersey.

Earlier in the trial, taxi driver Nasir Abbas testified he drove Pearl to a location where Pearl got into a car with Saeed.

A previously unknown group called the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty sent e-mails a few days later announcing Pearl's kidnapping and showing pictures of him in captivity.

A videotape received by U.S. diplomats in Pakistan on Feb. 21 confirmed Pearl, 38, was dead. His body has not been found.