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Wait for voice samples from Pak delays NIA's Headley chargesheet

By Vicky Nanjappa
August 26, 2011 17:44 IST
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A few days back the home ministry announced that it had completed its probe against 26/11 terror accused David Headley. However, there continues to be a slight delay where the filing of the chargesheet is concerned.

Sources have said Headley's caseĀ is quite an easy one when compared to that of alleged Lashkar-e-Tayiba operative Tahawwur Rana. Headley's case largely rests on the confession made by him and this has helped investigating agencies to build a strong case against him.

However, the National Investigation Agency is waiting for some documents from the United States of America, only after which the chargesheet will be filed.

An NIA source said they are in possession of emails and other transcripts of Headley. But the biggest problem in order to make it a watertight case is getting hold of voice samples, which unfortunately are in Pakistan.

It is not so much of an issue to file a chargesheet against Headley, but connecting him to others, especially those in the Pakistani establishment, remains problematic and this is where the reliance on other countries comes into the picture.

The NIA says Pakistan has agreed in principle to hand over the voice samples. The case to this effect is in court and a lot would depend on that. It is yet to be seen how much an influence the Inter Services Intelligence would have on the judicial procedure, as the agency would try its best to avoid these voice samples getting out Pakistan since the entire focus would be on them.

The US will have to play a vital role in this exercise and it is to be seen whether they would persuade Pakistan to hand over the voice samples to India. The NIA says it is not too hopeful of acquiring the voice samples, but they would continue to make the efforts.

The NIA has with it all details regarding the trips made by Headley to India, persons he met with and those who he had sought help from. However, there is still no concrete evidence on any of the local contacts that Headley had been in touch with, and the fact of the matter is that no one really knew what he was up to.

There were many persons Headley had interacted with in India, but during the trial all these persons will be turned into witnesses, who would in turn have to testify against Headley.

There is a confession by Headley in which he speaks about his India tour. But the Indian law is a bit lenient towards persons who have confessed to their crime. This would, however, not be sufficient for the NIA since they would want a harsh order against him. Although it would not be possible to sentence Headley since he has a plea bargain not to be shifted out of the US, the NIA would still like to make a strong statement on the case since this is really their first big case.

There are aspects of Headley's confession which do not make the role of the Pakistani establishment very clear. In fact, he has been edgy and chosen to avoid a lot of things. This is where the real role of the NIA began and they started building their own case of Headley's association with the Pakistani establishment.

NIA believes that by bringing out this aspect during the trial in India, the court would realise that Headley's confession reeks of mala fide and the order against him would be strong.

India therefore does find the need to wait for more evidence from the US and, if possible, from Pakistan. They have sent letters to Pakistan, but will also ask the US to pressurise Pakistan to get the voice samples, which are very crucial to the case.

NIA sources say that until there is clarity regarding this aspect they would not want to go ahead with the chargesheet. They say they want one final chargesheet and do not want to file one immediately and then go in for an additional one.

The NIA also wants the Rana and Headley cases to be part of the same chargesheet. They say the cases are inter-connected and the offences committed in India are inter-linked.

The NIA says that Rana's documents are expected to take a while longer. Moreover, they have not managed to get access to him as yet and that would be possible only once his appeal is complete.

"Rana has only played second fiddle to Headley. Although we would prefer to file the chargesheet against the two of them together, we would still take a final call on that depending on how long the Rana case takes. If we get the remainder of the Headley documents early and find that the Rana case is taking too long, then we may just go ahead with the chargesheet and the Rana aspect could be added in the additional chargesheet attached to the main on," said the source.

As of now the case against Headley is of waging a war against the country. He has already pleaded guilty to 12 charges. However, the case against Rana, conspiracy, was dismissed and an appeal is on at the moment.

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Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru
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