No U-turn by U.S. on direct access to Headley: Chidambaram

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has said that there was no confusion over the issue of Indian investigators getting direct access to Pakistani-American LeT operative David Coleman Headley or not.

“No, I don’t think so,” Mr. Chidambaram shot back when asked whether there was a U-turn by the US after its envoy in New Delhi Timothy J Roemer said that “no decision on direct access for India to David Headley has been made.”

”…If you reflect more carefully that sentence (of Roemer) no way (it) contradicts what the US Attorney (Eric Holder) has told me,” Mr. Chidambaram, who is here on an official visit, told a TV news channel.

Last night Home Secretary G K Pillai said that India was not taking cognisance of Mr. Roemer’s remarks and would be sending its investigators to the US at the earliest.

“I think we are going ahead and we are not really taking cognisance of the US ambassador’s remarks,” he said.

The 49-year-old Headley had last week pleaded guilty to all the 12 terror charges of conspiracy involving bombing public places in India, murdering and maiming persons and providing material support to foreign terrorist plots and Pakistan-based LeT besides aiding and abetting the murder of six US citizens in the 26/11 attacks that killed 166 people.

Following a telephonic discussion with Holder, Mr. Chidambaram had directed National Intelligence Agency and other agencies concerned in the case to quickly prepare documents necessary to start a judicial proceeding in which Indian authorities could require Headley to answer questions and to testify.

India is likely to send a team of investigators in April to question Headley.

PTI story from Chicago adds

Headley will cooperate: lawyer

David Coleman Headley, who has confessed to plotting Mumbai attacks, will cooperate with Indian authorities as required under the terms of his plea agreement if the US government allows, his lawyer has said.

John Theis said 49-year-old Headley’s terms of the plea agreement on March 18 requires that he allows himself to be interviewed by Indian authorities.

“Headley will cooperate to the extent it is required to by the terms of his plea agreement but as for the specifics. I think really our government and our US attorney’s office have to be the ones to determine the actual form (of access),” he told PTI when asked to comment about US Ambassador Timothy J Roemer’s statement that no decision on direct access for India to David Headley has been made.

Headley moved a guilty plea at a US court on March 18 where he confessed to plotting the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

“He is in US custody and so interviewing him does implicate the security issues and things like that,” Theis said.

When asked if Indian investigators, who come to the US, can be assured that they would get access to Headley and be able to put their questions to him, Theis said: “I’m not the one to ask that. You will have to ask our government, our US attorney’s office. They are the ones who are going to determine how this actually happens“.

Meanwhile, an FBI spokesperson told PTI: “If the plea agreement says that Headley has agreed to meet with investigators from India, then that is what he will do. It is a question of when and where. But I’m sure if that is what he agreed to, that is what will happen”.

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India not ‘unsatisfied’ if Headley gets life: Pillai

New Delhi: Home Secretary G.K. Pillai Friday said India will not be “unsatisfied” if David Headley, a key conspirator of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, is sentenced to life imprisonment.

“All that we know (is) that Headley has pleaded guilty to 12 charges. In one sense it is good,” Pillai said on the sidelines of a lecture on India-Bangladesh security at the Observer Research Foundation here.

He said the government had learnt that the US attorney general had advised life imprisonment for Headley.

“I don’t think government of India will be unsatisfied,” Pillai added.

Asked about the possibility of India getting a chance to interrogate Headley, he said there was some mention that foreign judicial custody could be allowed. The home secretary added that India has to work it out with the US agencies.

Is India upset that it could not get Headley’s custody? Pillai said that saying anything more now will be “only speculation”.

Headley pleaded guilty in a Chicago court Thursday to a dozen federal terrorism charges and admitted his role in planning the gory Nov 26, 2008 attack in Mumbai that left 166 people dead.

“Double agent” Headley visited Pune after 26/11

American terror suspect David Headley was a “double agent” of a US intelligence agency and carried out a recee of Raksha Bhavan, housing the Defence Ministry and National Defence Academy in Pune, according to a probe conducted into his activities by an Indian security agency.

49-year-old Headley was a “double agent” of the US intelligence agency and had also visited Pune after November 2008 Mumbai terror attack for which he had conducted a recce.

At present languishing in a jail in Chicago since October three last year, Headley had videographed a number of places in Pune including the Osho Ashram and National Defence Academy, during his visit to that city in March, 2009.

The information, shared by FBI during the meeting between security agencies and FBI chief Robert Muller, also showed that Headley was also collecting information about ‘Raksha Bhavan’. The US probe agency submitted fresh documents on Indian requests.

“The government is fully convinced that David Headley was a double agent. It has come to light that he visited Pune after 26/11 attack,” a senior government official, who did not wish to be identified, said.

Headley has been charged by the FBI with conspiracy of 26/11 terror strike in Mumbai amd Home Minister P Chidambaram, during his visit to Pune after a blast on February 13, had said that the government was still seeking access to Headley.

Security agencies have sought some more information from the FBI regarding interrogation of Headley. Security agencies in New Delhi have successfully trailed the movement of the American terror suspect within the country in a short span of time.

26/11 accused to examine NIA chief, Rahul Bhatt as witnesses

A accused in the 26/11 terror attack case on Monday sought permission from the trial court to examine NIA Chief S C Sinha, Gujarat DGP S S Khandwawala, Rahul Bhatt-son of film maker Mahesh Bhatt, and Fitness Instructor Vilas Warak as defence witnesses.

The accused Sabahuddin Ahmed’s lawyer Ejaz Naqvi told the court that he wants to examine these four witness to establish that terror suspect David Headley had conducted the reece of Mumbai before the 26/11 attack and not Sabahuddin as alleged by the prosecution.

“David Headley was staying at Malabar Hill in Mumbai and had conducted recce of the entire city and had passed on information to the 26/11 perpetrators. Then what is the need for Sabahuddin to prepare the sketches?” Naqvi asked.

He further argued that according to the investigation agencies, Headley had also conducted recce of the Osho ashram in Pune near which a blast took place on February 13.

Asked by special judge M L Tahiliyani as to what evidence Rahul Bhatt and Vilas Warak can give, Naqvi said the duo were close friends of Headley and had visited several places in the city with him.

Headley worked as FBI informer: Report

Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley, a LeT operative charged with criminal conspiracy in the 26/11 terror attacks, was arrested twice before on drug charges but was released early as he was a “good informant” in unearthing of some of the major drug cartels.

Headley was arrested on October 3 by the FBI and has been charged for being involved in the Mumbai terror attacks, in which 166 people were killed.

The 49-year-old Chicago resident, who worked as an informant to federal prosecutors at least twice as a result of which his sentence was reduced, has again turned out an informant for FBI this time.

The FBI chargesheet filed against Headley gives an indication of it, in which the federal prosecutors say that he is cooperating in the investigation.

Court records indicate that Headley, earlier known as Dawood Gilani, was arrested twice on drug charges and on both the occasions, his sentence was reduced and was able to leave the jail early as he turned out to be a good informant to the drug enforcement agencies and helped them in unearthing of some of the major drug cartels.

Given the strong case against him in Mumbai attacks, Headley is unlikely to come out of the jail and faces death penalty. “But by talking this time, Headley might escape the death penalty,” ‘Philadelphia Inquirer’ said.

Headley has been charged in a 12-count criminal information with six counts of conspiracy to bomb places in India and Denmark and for providing material support to terrorist plots.

Headley had stayed in a Delhi hotel before 26/11 attacks

Taj hotel

Flames coming out of Taj Hotel where a terror strike took place on Nov. 26, 2008. According to passport details, David Headley had stayed in New Delhi just before the attacks

 Suspected American terrorist David Headley had stayed in a hotel in the national capital just months before the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.

According to the passport details of Headley, he had visited the national capital and Mumbai during April last year. He had then left for Pakistan.

Headley was arrested by the FBI for suspected links with the banned terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which had carried out the Mumbai carnage last year that left about 180 people dead.

Sources said Central security agencies are also investigating Headley’s suspected links to terror outfit Indian Mujhaideen, which had carried out a series of bomb attacks across the country, including in Rajasthan and Delhi, which left over 170 people dead.

Home Minister P Chidambaram had said on Thursday that besides Headley, the National Investigating Agency had registered a case against his Canadian accomplice Tahawwur Hussain Rana.

The duo was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and for conspiring to wage war against the country.

Maintaining that Headley had visited India several times before 26/11 and once after the Mumbai terror strikes, Chidambaram had said, “We are conducting investigations in the cities he visited to find out whom he met and what he did.”

The Mumbai attack last November left 183 persons dead.

A top Home Ministry official has claimed that the investigators had enough evidence to show Headley’s link with LeT and the Government is all set to produce the documents before a US court in January next and press for his extradition to India.

“We will press for his extradition to India with the evidence,” the official said.

The investigators were now trying to find out whether Headley and his accomplice Rana, also arrested in the US, were involved in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai and whether handlers of the duo and Mumbai attackers were the same.