India will insist on direct access to Headley

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 24, 2010 14:08 hrs

New Delhi : India on Wednesday asserted it would insist on and was confident of interrogating David Headley over the Mumbai terror attack, a day after US ambassador Timothy Roemer said no decision had been taken on giving New Delhi direct access to the Pakistani American terror suspect.

'One day or the other, the US will have to agree and expedite the issue that Headley will have to undergo interrogation by our agencies,' Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily said in Bangalore.

Moily told reporters that 'this is a matter (where) we need to press hard our argument and tell them what's necessary. We have to make a strong case which we have already made out. He is involved, really involved (in the Mumbai attacks).'

No decision to provide India access to Headley: US

Coinciding with Moily's assertion, a home ministry official told IANS in New Delhi: 'The government will go by what US Attorney General Eric Holder told Home Minister (P. Chidambaram). He (Holder) is the top boss of the justice department in the US government.'

He said New Delhi would soon ask the US authorities for specific dates to question Headley, who visited India more than once to look for targets that Pakistan-based terrorists could attack.

Eventually, 10 well-armed terrorists sneaked into Mumbai by sea from Pakistan and went on a killing spree in November 2008, leaving 166 Indians and foreigners dead.

'The government has already started preparations to form a team (to be sent to the US). The ambassador's remark has not stopped that,' the official said.

Roemer Tuesday signalled a change in the US stance over giving India access to Headley, who is in US custody and has confessed to his role in the Mumbai attack.

'No decision on direct access for India to David Headley has been made,' the ambassador said.

In a snub to the American envoy, Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said late Tuesday: 'I think we are not taking cognizance of the ambassador's remarks.

'We are getting ready with our home work and would be taking it up with the US government for mutually acceptable dates for the visit of the team (of investigators to question Headley). We have no doubt whatsoever that the team would be going shortly,' Pillai told a news channel.

26/11 trial: Court rejects plea to examine Headley as witness

Pillai said the government was sure that Indian investigators would get direct access to Headley who last week in a Chicago court confessed to his role in plotting the Mumbai attack.

Headley will be spared the death sentence and will not be extradited to India after having entered into a plea bargain with prosecutors.

Two days after Headley's confession, the US attorney general, also head of the Department of Justice, telephoned Chidambaram following which the home minister said: 'It is my understanding that India would be able to obtain access to Headley to question him in a properly constituted judicial proceeding. Such a judicial proceeding could be either pre-trial or during an inquiry or trial.'

Roemer's remark created a stir, with opposition parties targeting the government over the US flipflop.

The Indian government is under attack for allowing American investigators to talk to Mumbai's lone surviving Pakistani terrorist, Mohammed Ajmal Amir alias Kasab, while failing to persuade the US to show reciprocity.

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