Headley can be interrogated by India on US soil

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 19, 2010 12:55 hrs

Chicago/New Delhi: A day after David Headley confessed to plotting Mumbai attacks, it became clear on Friday that Indian investigators will be able to interrogate the Pakistani-American terrorist in the US but he will not be extradited to India.

Under a plea bargain, 49-year-old Headley pleaded guilty before a Chicago court to all 12 terror charges of conspiracy involving bombing public places in India, murdering and maiming persons and providing material support to Pakistan- based LeT, besides aiding and abetting the murder of six US citizens in the 26/11 attacks that killed 166 people.

His lawyer John Theis said Headley "has agreed to make himself available for interrogation by Indian enforcement authorities or any authorised Indian authority".

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Both countries will still have to figure out how and when he can be questioned and whether the Indian investigators will be allowed direct access.

The US, which has so far denied India the right to question Headley who was arrested by the FBI in October last year, said he has agreed to "fully and truthfully" participate in this process which has to be undertaken only on American soil.

As per the plea bargain, Headley, who is also accused of plotting attacks against a Danish newspaper which published cartoons of Prophet Mohammad, has escaped death penalty and is likely to get a life sentence.

In New Delhi, Home Minister P Chidambaram said the development in the Chicago court was "not a setback" and asserted that India will continue to press for Headley's extradition.

India will be satisfied if Headley gets life sentence: Pillai

It was stated in the plea bargain that Headley shall not be extradited to India, Pakistan or Denmark for any offences for which he has pleaded guilty. This came with a rider, "so long as he fully discloses all material facts concerning his role with respect to these offences."

Asked whether India would be sending any team to question Headley, Chidambaram told reporters that it would depend on whether access to him is granted.

On the possibility of Headley's extradition to India, the Home Minister said it would be difficult as he is accused of committing crimes in the US as well.

"We had apprehended problems in extradition. But we have not given up. We will continue to maintain our plea for his extradition," he said.

Headley attended five terror training camps in Pakistan

In a statement, the US Department of Justice said, "Headley further agrees that, when directed by the United States Attorneys Office, he will fully and truthfully testify in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the United States by way of deposition, video-conferencing or letters rogatory."

Headley's lawyer told reporters after the over 30-minute hearing held before US District Judge Harry Leinenweber that "he has agreed to allow himself to be interviewed by foreign governments in this country" as part of the agreement.

Headley, who had pleaded not guilty on January 14 to the charges against him, did a U-turn in the 35-page plea agreement and confessed to all the charges.

When asked, if this means that Indian investigators could come to the US and talk to Headley, even about the Mumbai attacks, Theis said: "Yes. If he refuses to talk to foreign governments here, it would mean a violation of the plea agreement".

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