With David Coleman Headley’s sentencing out of the way, India will once again start prodding US authorities for vital information and evidence in the 26/11 case.
The Pakistani-American — who had pleaded guilty to being the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s recce man in Mumbai ahead of the 2008 attack that killed 166 people — was handed a 35-year sentence by a Chicago court on Thursday.
“We were informally asked to wait till the sentencing. With Headley behind bars, we will renew our efforts to question his wife Shazia and business associates of Tahawwur Hussain Rana. The US authorities can also give us their statements. India has sought these under the mutual legal assistance treaty,” a home ministry official said Friday.
Rana — a Pakistani-Canadian who gave Headley the cover of his immigration business during his travels to India — is serving 14 years in jail. India is hopeful of getting him extradited to India, so he can face trial.
“As far as extradition goes, the US can give the argument that it entered into a plea bargain with Headley that bars his extradition. But in Rana’s case, there is no such condition,” said an NIA official.
Sources said there were two reasons the evidence was being held back. First, one can’t be compelled to provide self-incriminating evidence, which might be the case with some statements.
But with the sentencing over, it's a different matter now. Second, the process for internal clearances in the US is still on. A senior National Investigation Agency (NIA) official had visited the US to give the process a push.
The NIA has charge-sheeted both Headley and Rana along with Lashkar patron Hafiz Saeed, his lieutenants Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Sajid Majid, two serving ISI officers, a former Pakistani army major and al Qaeda military commander Ilyas Kashmiri, now deceased.
It said the conspiracy went beyond 26/11 with the group also planning strikes on the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Air India and Mantralaya buildings in Mumbai, Chabad houses in different cities and the National Defence College in Delhi.