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Jundal arrest: Lengthy legal process ahead for NIA, ATS

June 27, 2012 14:03 IST

India faces the daunting task of completing arrested LeT operative Abu Jundal's trial as soon as possible, says Vicky Nanjappa.

The legal process that has started after the arrest of Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative Abu Jundal may turn out to be as lengthy as the ordeal to deport him from Saudi Arabia.

Jundal, who was arrested a year ago in connection with a forgery case in Saudi Arabia, remained in custody of Saudi authorities. He was extradited to India only after a long drawn out process.

Both India and Pakistan had sought Jundal's extradition, but for different reasons. India wanted to reveal the local link to the 26/11 attacks and Pakistan wanted to safeguard the high-profile LeT terrorist.

Indian agencies had to run from pillar to post to ensure that Jundal was handed over to Delhi. Jundal was on the watch-list of both India and the United States after his name cropped up in the 26/11 attacks probe.

An intercept mentioning Jundal was first picked by US intelligence agencies, who passed on this information to India. When Jundal was later arrested by Saudi authorities for a forgery case, both India and Pakistan started making desperate attempts to bring him back.

Islamabad, which claimed that Jundal was wanted in connection with certain crimes, had a stronger case since the LeT terrorist was travelling on a Pakistani passport.

India had to provide DNA samples and reams of proof to Saudi authorities to prove that Jundal was the man they were looking for in connection with the 26/11 attacks.

India now faces the daunting task of completing this trial as soon as possible. While the interrogation is expected to continue for many days, Jundal needs to be identified conclusively.

The only person who has seen him during the planning of 26/11 is Ajmal Kasab, the sole terrorist arrested alive during the terror siege. Though he will be asked to identify Jundal, it is unlikely that Kasab, who is awaiting the outcome of his appeal against the death sentence, can be taken back to the trial court to get his statement recorded.

While the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad will need to question Jundal, it has still not been decided whether he will be tried in Maharashtra or in Delhi.

The National Investigation Agency's charge-sheet against LeT operative David Headley mentions Jundal. The investigation in the 26/11 case has been bifurcated; the NIA is dealing with the international operators. Jundal, an Indian national, is still considered to be an international operator.

His revelations will help NIA join the dots regarding the international operations of the LeT, so it is essential for the agency to question and charge-sheet him.

But a lengthy legal procedure will precede the trial. The Maharashtra ATS and the Delhi police will have to be given a chance to question Jundal. Police teams from other states may also want to grill him.

His role in the Delhi blasts and the German bakery blast is currently being probed. The NIA, meanwhile, will try to locate the whereabouts of other terror operatives like Sajid Mir, Muzzamil Bhat, Zarar Shah and others. These men, mentioned in the NIA charge-sheet, were with Jundal when he was guiding the 26/11 attackers from the LeT's control room in Karachi.