Daniel Pearl

Daniel Pearl

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Intensive negotiations are under way with Pakistan for the extradition to the United States of Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the top suspect in the kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, the White House said Monday.
Other government officials said that federal prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office in Washington are working on bringing criminal charges in the case. But officials refused to comment on how soon a grand jury might bring any indictments.
Asked Monday if the United States is interested in bringing a criminal case against Sheikh, President Bush said, "We're always interested in dealing with people who have harmed American citizens."
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said that the United States "would very much like to get our hands on Omar Sheikh and anyone else responsible for the killing of Daniel Pearl," noting that Pakistan is a sovereign nation and will continue its judicial process.
"We will work closely with Pakistan to try to achieve that outcome of bringing them to the U.S.," Fleischer said.
A Pakistani Embassy official in Washington, Asad Hayauddin, said that the two countries are engaged in discussions about the issue.
Hayauddin said he doesn't know the status of the talks, adding that "Pakistan has always cooperated in bringing people to justice if required" and if there's a legal justification for a transfer of a suspect to U.S. custody.
The United States signed an extradition treaty with Pakistan in 1931, and it went into effect in 1942, when Pakistan was under British control, Fleischer said.
Hayauddin said that treaty was used to extradite Ramzi Youssef, convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Mir Amil Kasi, convicted in the 1993 shooting deaths of two CIA employees, from Pakistan.
Bush expressed satisfaction with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and his government's handling of the Pearl case.
"I could tell from the tone of his voice how distraught he was, how disturbed he was that this barbaric act had taken place in his country," Bush said, referring to a recent phone call from Musharraf.
"He knew full well that those killers did not represent the vast majority of the people in his own country, and he vowed to me on the phone that he would do everything in his power to chase down the killers and bring them to justice."
U.S. indicted suspect last year

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The United States indicted Sheikh last year in the 1994 kidnapping of four tourists in India, including an American.
Wendy Chamberlin, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, formally requested Sheikh's arrest in a January 9 meeting with Pakistan's foreign minister. The United States repeated the request January 24 when FBI Director Robert Mueller and Chamberlin met with Musharraf.
Pearl was kidnapped January 23, and it was Mueller who first informed Musharraf of Pearl's abduction.
Sheikh, who was arrested February 12, made a brief appearance Monday before an anti-terrorism court in Karachi, Pakistan, where he was remanded in custody for 14 days to allow prosecutors to gather more evidence.
He appeared with two other men, Sheikh Mohammed Adil and Salmon Saqib, who are accused of sending e-mails connected to Pearl's abduction and who also were remanded.
With white hoods over their heads, the suspects were taken to the closed-door hearing under heavy security and hustled in and out of the Sindh High Court in under an hour.
Raja Qureshi, the prosecutor general, said Judge Shabbir Ahmed granted a police request to hold the suspects while their investigation continued.
There was speculation that Sheikh might make a full confession before the court and that formal charges of murder and kidnapping would be presented. But police said the investigation is complex, and they want more evidence before formal charges are filed.
The prosecutor said authorities intend to recover the body and the weapon used to kill Pearl. They also are looking for more suspects.
Complaints of coercion
At a previous court appearance, Sheikh rejected the opportunity to have an attorney represent him, saying he would not defend himself against any charges.
At Monday's hearing, the accused complained of coercion, saying police were trying to force them to put their signatures on blank sheets of paper. The judge told the police to back off and not coerce the suspects, CNN reported.
Pearl disappeared last month in Karachi when he was believed to be on his way to interview a Pakistani militant thought to have connections with Richard Reid, the man accused of trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with explosives hidden in his shoes.

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