President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's claim, made in his memoirs released this week, could now be used to try to clear one of Pearl's four convicted killers, who is appealing his death sentence, the prisoner's lawyer said Wednesday.
Musharraf accused Khalid Sheikh Mohammed of taking part in Pearl's killing in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, following the journalist's kidnapping on Jan. 23, 2002. Mohammed was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and is in U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"The man who may have actually killed Pearl or at least participated in his butchery, we eventually discovered, was none other than Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al Qaeda's No. 3," Musharraf wrote in "In The Line of Fire," released Monday.
Mohammed has never been officially linked to Pearl's murder during police investigations or the trial that resulted in four Islamic militants being convicted for the killing. One of the men was sentenced to death, and the other three to life in prison.
But some U.S. officials and The Wall Street Journal suggested that Mohammed had killed Pearl. Pakistan denied the claims at the time.
Musharraf also wrote that Mohammed helped lay the groundwork for the London subway bombings on July 7, 2005, and a plot to attack Heathrow Airport with hijacked passenger planes. It was the first public allegation linking Mohammed to the subway attacks, which killed 52 people and four bombers.
Rohan Gunaratna, head of terrorism research at Singapore's Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, said it has long been understood that it was Mohammed who killed Pearl to prove to the West after Sept. 11 that al Qaeda was still bent on killing Americans.
"But Pakistan never officially acknowledged it because they did not want to risk letting the others in custody be released," Gunaratna told The Associated Press.