India says Headley confession no setback, will quiz him in US
New Delhi: India hopes to get access to 26/11 terror suspect David Headley to cross-examine or interrogate him, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said Friday, stressing that the Pakistani American`s plea bargain to escape the death sentence for planning the Mumbai mayhem was "not a setback to India".
"Headley has agreed to fully and truthfully testify in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the US. We will continue to press for access to Headley in that he will testify in a court or subject himself to interrogation," Chidambaram told reporters here.
He was speaking after a cabinet meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
According to Chidambaram, India has "already been given significant amount of information (on Headley`s role in the Mumbai attacks)".
Government sources also said that a "lighter" sentence of less than 20 years for Headley will be a matter of concern and Government will initiate the process for getting him interrogated "across the table".
Sources also fear that there could be a hidden deal between Pakistani-American Headley and the US Government under which he could get a lighter sentence of much less than 20 years after which he may even get a new identity and be free under the witness protection scheme in the US.
While being not much optimistic about getting Headley extradited to India, officials said that National Investigation Agency (NIA) will file a chargesheet against Headley and his accomplice Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana to enable his "questioning across the table" in the case.
After his appearance in a Chicago court yesterday under the plea bargain agreement, the US Attorney General has said that Headley as agreed to "fully and truthfully testify in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the US by way of deposition, video conferencing or Letters Rogatory".
Chidambaram said that the 49-year-old Headley`s plea bargain "is not a setback for India" although this means that he will not be extradited to India, Denmark or Pakistan.
"We have not given up our plea for extradition. We will have to wait and see what happens (at Headley`s court appearance)," Chidambaram said.
The NIA has registered a case against Headley and Rana for allegedly conspiring to wage a war against the country and under various sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Government is watching with caution the plea bargain made by Headley under which if he continues to cooperate fully he could press for a downward impeachment, implying lesser punishment.
The sources said that the Government has evidence of offences committed by Headley in India besides the 12 counts for which he has pleaded guilty.
If need be, the security agencies can register a fresh case and seek his extradition in case the punishment was much below the expected lines, a senior official said.
Chidambaram pointed out that Headley had not been charged in India "and for good reason. We will charge him at the appropriate time".
Headley Thursday pleaded guilty to a dozen federal terrorism charges in a Chicago court and admitted his role in planning the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.
Headley also admitted that he attended training camps in Pakistan operated by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) on five separate occasions between 2002 and 2005.
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