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US court allows media access to Headley's interrogation tapes

October 20, 2011 00:34 IST

A United States court on Wednesday allowed media outlets access to parts of the video tapes, which were played during the trial of Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative David Headley's childhood friend and 26/11 attacks co-accused Tahawwur Rana.

US District court Judge Harry D Leinenweber ruled that only portions of the tape that were played in court will be allowed to be accessed by the media.

"We are to turn over what was played in court and we are to comply with the court's order," US  Attorney Dan Collins told PTI after the hearing.

American media outlets had filed the motion demanding access to behind-the-scene video tapes of FBI interrogation of Mumbai attacks plotter Pakistani-American Headley.

The motion was filed on October 6 after prosecutors refused to turn over to various media outlets the video tapes, which were played during the trial of Pakistani-Canadian Rana in June. Headley was the star witness in the trial.

While Rana's attorney Patrick Blegen did not specifically remember what parts of the tapes were played in court, Collins did, and so Judge Leinenweber ruled that what Collins remembers would be granted access.

The tapes were allowed to play in court in June by Blegen to show that Headley had duped his friend Rana.

But Blegen neglected to enter the tapes as evidence, a technicality now claimed by prosecutors as the reason they do not have to make it public.

Headley was accused in scouting targets and conducting a recce in Mumbai before 26/11 attacks that led to the death of 166 people including six Americans.

Headley testified to US authorities on conditions that he be not extradited to India and not be given the death penalty.

Rana's lawyers did not object to access of interrogation tapes by US media outlets.

The motion — filed by ProPublica, a public interest reporting organisation, and the PBS show Frontline — demanded access to the tapes. PBS Frontline wants to use the tapes in an hour-long documentary on their show 'Frontline' they want to air next month.

In the tapes, Headley is shown confessing that he took training in LeT camps and under Inter-Services Intelligence and Pakistani militants linked to Al Qaeda and accepted his role in scouting targets and conducting a recce of Mumbai before the 2008 attacks.

According to court documents, Rana's defense counsel Blegen had informed intervenors that defendant Rana does not object to the release of the Headley footage. However, the US Attorney's office opposed it, citing its objections at trial to using the video clips during Headley's cross-examination, and claiming that the clips were not trial exhibits and were not admitted into evidence.

Blegen believed that the videos should have been entered as trial exhibits, but at a minimum were used and recognized as demonstrative exhibits at trial.

Himani Kumar in Chicago
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