US bowed to Indian pressure

NSA Ajit Doval lobbied with U.S. authorities.

December 12, 2015 01:24 am | Updated December 05, 2021 09:02 am IST - New Delhi

In this January 24, 2013 courtroom sketch, David Coleman Headley appears before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber at federal court in Chicago.

In this January 24, 2013 courtroom sketch, David Coleman Headley appears before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber at federal court in Chicago.

Intense lobbying by National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval with the American authorities could have led David Coleman Headley, one of the main conspirators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, to turn an approver in the case, a senior government official told The Hindu .

Apart from the case being probed by the Mumbai Police, where he has offered to become an approver, Headley is also an accused in the case being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

When contacted, NIA chief Sharad Kumar told The Hindu , “As of now we have no plans to make Headley an approver in our case.” NIA is probing the larger conspiracy behind the case.

Plea bargain That Headley acted as double agent for the Americans as well as terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is a known fact. After his arrest in 2009 from Chicago airport, Headley entered into a plea bargain with the U.S authorities, which provided him cushion from death penalty and from being extradited to India or Denmark.

A senior official explained, “The plea bargain that he entered with the U.S ensured that he will not be extradited to India to serve the remaining sentence; it never said anything on his presence here in the course of the trial. There was a possibility that he could have been sent to India in future to face the trial. It could have proved troublesome for the Americans as they conveniently ignored his activities in Pakistan and links with LeT.”

Prosecution option A senior government official claimed that Maharashtra public prosecutor and senior officials of the central intelligence agencies had meetings with the U.S. Department of Justice two months ago, which prompted Headley to become an approver in the case.

When contacted Special Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam denied having met U.S authorities but added, “there are many aspects involving national security, which cannot be disclosed.” Mr. Nikam told The Hindu , “Headley becoming an approver is not the final word. I have put a condition that he ought to answer all the questions posed by us to become an approver.”

NSA lobbied with U.S. officials

A senior official added that there still existed a possibility of Headley being made an accused during the course of the trial, if the prosecution was not convinced with his replies. NIA has already sent an extradition request to the U.S. in 2011 seeking Headley's custody. Former home secretary R.K Singh said, “This offer (to turn an approver) could not have come on his own; our agencies must have worked hard on it. The evidence provided by him could prove to be key against Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafeez Saeed, who is one of the main architects of 26/11 attacks.”

Former IPS officer V. Balachandran, who was part of the committee probing lapses in the 26/11 Mumbai attack case, said the Indian prosecution team had no other option but to make him an approver.

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