K J M Varma in Pakistan
After considerable dithering, Pakistan has reportedly conveyed its decision to the United States that it would try Sheikh Omar Saeed for the kidnapping of American journalist Daniel Pearl before deciding on Washington's request for extradition.
"He would be tried in Pakistan according to the law of the land," Pakistan daily Dawn quoted a senior interior ministry official as saying.
The decision to try Omar in Pakistan was conveyed by President Pervez Musharraf during a meeting with US ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlin, the report said.
According to Pakistani officials, Omar might be handed over to the US only after criminal investigations were completed and the requirements of the due process of law were met.
"Pakistan is a sovereign state. They have their own laws. A crime, a murder has been committed in their country and they have their own ways and laws of dealing with it," the official was quoted as saying.
The news not to extradite Omar follows assertions by an official spokesman on Monday that the question whether he should be tried in Pakistan or extradited to the US would be considered in the light of the findings of the investigations.
"Competent authorities of the government are engaged in investigating the murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter," he had said.
Meanwhile, with the trial scheduled to begin in 10 days, police do not have any hard evidence with them, including any eyewitnesses, another Pakistan daily, The News said.
"There still are plenty of loose ends in the case. Frankly speaking we don't have any clue to the real conspiracy and the actual conspirators," an official was quoted as saying.
Omar's family reportedly hired two of the best lawyers, K M Samdani and Khawaja Naveed, to defend him. Besides, his wife also filed a petition in the Karachi high court asking it to prevent his extradition. It comes up for hearing this week.
Officials said they were worried by the fact that while the high profile trial was about to commence in ten days, the police investigators have not been able to trace even a single witness to the kidnapping, the news report stated.
"Forty days after the case, we have no eyewitness to Danny's kidnapping, torture or murder," an official told the daily.
"It's like going to court almost empty handed," he was quoted as saying.
Police investigators privately admitted that the FBI officials, who simultaneously carried out investigations, may not be ready to testify in any court of law as their cross-examination by defence attorneys may compromise their identities and modes of investigation, it said.
"There is nothing to suggest that the FBI officials are ready to be produced as prosecution witnesses by the police investigators Karachi. My impression is that the FBI is actually working to build a case against Omar for trial in a US court," an official said.
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