Pearl's murder inspires scholarly search for truth

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While working for the Wall Street Journal's Washington bureau in 1993, journalist Asra Nomani played volleyball on the National Mall, explored the city's club scene and got her "socialization to America" with friend and colleague Daniel Pearl by her side.

This fall, more than five years after Pearl was murdered while reporting in Pakistan, Nomani will lead a for-credit journalism seminar at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., that seeks to investigate the circumstances of his death.

"Journalists are a lot like the Marines," Nomani says. "We can't leave the truth behind. We couldn't save Danny, but we have to come together to try to find the truth that's left behind."

Classes such as these are not unusual in the world of collegiate journalism...

Nomani has a list of dozens of questions she hopes the course will be able to answer, including why Pearl was kidnapped, who financed and distributed the video of his death, what story Pearl was chasing, and whether Omar Saeed Sheikh, whom police have said was identified by others involved in the crime as the mastermind, had ties to Pakistani intelligence. Sheikh has been convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the plot; he is in jail in Pakistan awaiting an appeal, Nomani says.

The timing is right for the Georgetown project because in the years since Pearl's death, some American and Pakistani officials have retired, which frees them to speak more candidly, says Pearl's father, Judea Pearl.

The class will interview sources primarily in the USA, especially in Washington, although Nomani says she has identified people who will be flying through Washington and the group hopes to interview. She also says journalists in Nepal, Pakistan and the Middle East have volunteered to conduct field reporting.

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