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NIA has a water-tight case against Headley

By Vicky Nanjappa
October 21, 2011 17:49 IST
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NIA investigators are determined to push forward with the evidence they have against Tawwahur Rana and David Coleman Headly, reports Vicky Nanjappa

India's case against Lashkar-e-Tayiba operatives Tawwahur Rana and David Coleman Headly are in limbo since no decision has been taken on whether a team of the National Investigating Agency would be sent to the United States to question them.

Rana and Headley were both accused of helping plan the 26/11 terror strike in Mumbai, in which several Americans were killed. While Headley turned into a prime witness for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Rana was acquitted of the charges by a US court.

However, Rana, a Chicago-based businessman, was found guilty of planning a terror strike on the office of a Danish newspaper that had published controversial caricatures of the Prophet.

According to NIA sources, the agency has the requisite evidence against Rana but cannot proceed any further since he has not been questioned by them directly. They have also put on hold any plans to interrogate Rana as they believe that it would be a waste of time.

Since he had been acquitted, it is unlikely that Rana will divulge any more information.

These delays have also stalled the filing of the NIA's chargesheet in connection with this case. The agency wants to club both Headley and Rana's cases together and does not want to file separate chargesheets. Headley would be the prime accused while Rana would be the second accused. Two separate chargesheets would only mean a further delay in the trial, as the case would come up in court twice.

According to sources involved with the investigation, the NIA's case against Headley is much stronger than the one against Rana. Initially, there were plenty of intercepts about Rana's itinerary during his earlier visits to India. Investigators now believe that he was only aiding Headley and had not undertaken any operation on his own as had been claimed before.

While the case against Headley is already in place, the NIA is still putting together its case against Rana. All the details about Rana available with the agency are the ones gleaned from the FBI probe. The NIA's chargesheet is likely to rely heavily on the FBI's case and the agency will seek material evidence against Rana from American investigators to strengthen its case.

This process is likely to take a couple of months. American investigators may take some time to share information since the appeal against Rana, in the 26/11 case, is underway.

Will India continue to pursue the case against Rana if the appeal against him falls through in a US court? NIA investigators claim that they will never give up the case and push forward with the evidence they have against Rana. They might even take a shot at interrogating him.

"We are just waiting for the appeal process to get over, only then can we make the next move," said one of them.

Speaking about the case being delayed, the NIA official said, "We are dependant to a certain extent on another country and hence things do not move at the pace we want it to. But we will ensure that the chargesheet is filed by January and there are no further delays. There are just some glitches in the case against Rana".

He added, "The main accused in the case is Headley and there is a water-tight case against him. The people he dealt with are all expected to cooperate during the trial and they will be marked as witnesses. The entire case is not reliant on only information shared by the US since we too have our own information for a very strong case".

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