Pearl's widow: Suit will bring 'accountability' for murder

More than a dozen reputed terrorists and Pakistan's largest bank blamed for Wall Street Journal reporter's death.

pearls widow 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
pearls widow 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The widow of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl hopes to elicit more information about her husband's death by suing those she blames - including more than a dozen reputed terrorists and Pakistan's largest bank. "I am looking for the truth of what happened to Daniel, for our family, our friends, and the public record," Mariane Pearl said in a statement. "This process allows us to delve deeper into the investigation, and to bring accountability and punishment to those involved with his kidnapping, torture and murder." The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court in Brooklyn, implicates the defendants in the torture and murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter in 2002. It alleges Habib Bank Limited of Karachi knowingly provided financial services for al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. Backed by the bank, terrorists "carried out the kidnapping, ransom, torture, execution and dismemberment of Daniel Pearl and broadcast those images nationwide," the lawsuit said. The suit seeks unspecified damages for acts it alleges were meant to "emotionally destroy the Pearl family and terrorize, appall and frighten American citizens." Zafar Aziz Osmani, a senior executive vice president at Habib Bank in Karachi, said on Thursday that it had not yet been informed about the lawsuit, but denied the bank was involved with terrorism. "The issue is related to 2002 and the bank was until recently in government control, and obviously any government controlled organization cannot go for any fishy business," Osmani told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. The bank, which is now privately owned, "is doing very clear business and in no way involved in any negative activity," he said. Also named as defendants in the suit are Khalid Shaikh Mohammed - the imprisoned al-Qaida No. 3 leader and mastermind of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 - and an outlawed Islamic charity, the al-Rashid Trust. The suit claims the trust, which banked with Habib, was a front for Mohammed and al-Qaida that "abetted and conspired" in the Pearl slaying. Pakistan banned the charity earlier this year as part of an effort to dry up terrorist financing. There was no immediate response to a message left with the bank's Manhattan office. Late last year, US regulators announced that the bank had agreed to bolster policies aimed at detecting abuses by terrorist financiers, money launderers and other criminals. Pearl, 38, the Journal's South Asia bureau chief, was abducted from Karachi while researching a story on Islamic militancy. His remains were later found in a shallow grave in Karachi's eastern outskirts. During the ordeal, the kidnappers used the victim's cell phone "to call and threaten plaintiff Mariane Pearl, who was in Pakistan searching for Daniel," the suit said. "Realizing she did not speak Urdu, the kidnappers hung up." Pakistan has convicted several men in the case. British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Shaikh was sentenced to death in July 2002, and his three accomplices were given life prison terms. Their appeals are pending before the Sindh High Court. Mohammed was caught in Pakistan and is now being held at the US prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He claimed he personally beheaded Pearl, according to a partial Pentagon transcript of his testimony at a military tribunal. Mariane Pearl is represented by Motley Rice, a law firm based in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The firm has brought other suits against Middle Eastern banks and companies on behalf of Sept. 11 victims.