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US media seeks access to Headley's interrogation tapes

Source: PTI
October 08, 2011 16:06 IST
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Key United States media organisations have filed a motion in a court in Chicago  demanding access to behind-the-scene video tapes of the Federal Bureau Investigations interrogation of Mumbai attacks plotter David Headley, including one showing him "palpably nervous" as he groped for a plea bargain deal.

The motion was filed late on Thursday after federal prosecutors here refused to turn over to various media outlets the video tapes, which were played during the trial of Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative Headley's childhood friend Tahawwur Hussain Rana in June. Headley was the star witness in the trial.

Rana's lawyer had played parts of the tapes in court, suggesting that Headley was trying to dupe their client and save himself. But the lawyer neglected to enter the video into evidence, a technicality now claimed by prosecutors as the reason they do not have to make it public, according to ABC News channel.

As a motion has been filed requesting that the US attorney be directed to turn over the tapes to the media, prosecutors will now have to explain why they are refusing to do so.

In the video, Headley is shown confessing that he took training in LeT camps and under ISI and Pakistani militants linked to the Al Qaeda and accepted his role in scouting targets and conducting a recce of Mumbai before the 2008 attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

The motion -- filed by ProPublica, a public interest reporting organisation, and the PBS show Frontline -- is demanding the tapes, citing a Seventh Circuit ruling that "what transpires in the courtroom is public property."

In Rana's case, the court had already overruled the prosecution's objections and allowed the tapes shown. Jurors and the courtroom public saw "scenes of a palpably nervous Headley groping for one last deal," a plea bargain for himself to avoid the death penalty.

The motion noted that Headley had in the past successfully manipulated and evaded federal authorities, who even failed to investigate warnings from his relatives that he was plotting terror attacks. Those relatives included Headley's third wife, Faiza Outalha.

"I went to them and I then started saying stuff, I said he's going to bomb everything, he's a criminal. They didn't bother," Outalha was quoted as saying.

 PBS channel needs the tapes quickly for its hour-long documentary on terrorism 'Frontline' to be aired next month. A hearing for turning over the tapes is set for next Wednesday.
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