Key 26/11 conspirator David Headley’s guilty plea in the US might shut the doors on any possibility of his extradition to India but Home Minister P. Chidambaram said New Delhi would continue to press for his extradition and access to him.
India’s request for access to Headley’s co-conspirator, Taha-wwur Rana — who was in India a week before the 26/11 attack — and Headley’s wife, Shazia, is already pending before US authorities. Chidambaram said he expected the request for Shazia to be taken up soon
Headley, a US national of Pakistani origin, pleaded guilty in a US court on Thursday to 12 charges of terrorism including six for the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, in a deal that lets him escape death penalty — he will probably get life imprisonment — and prevents his extradition to another country.
Is this a setback for India?
“India has lost the battle to know the full and complete truth about the nature and width of the conspiracy behind 26/11,” said BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
Chidambaram, however, said the guilty plea was “not a setback” for India.
India will be able to get him to testify in the 26/11 trial if it wants to, for one, an official said.
As part of the plea deal, Headley will have to testify in any “judicial proceedings” held in the US through deposition, video-conferencing or letter rogatory.
Not face to face perhaps. Headley is gone for good. “It appears to me that (US) prosecution will perhaps seek life imprisonment…In the US, this means imprisonment for the natural life of a person,” Chidambaram said.
Born Daood Gilani, Headley joined the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba in 2002 and attended five terrorist training camps over the next three years before embarking on his India visits to scout for potential targets for a strike.
It is still not clear, however, if Indian investigators can interrogate Headley.
“We have to see how things move forward. We have to be patient,” Chidambaram said, pointing the Chicago court would take a final call on the fate of the plea agreement.
Chidambaram would continue to press for access to interrogate Headley. The US had shared a significant amount of information and had sent Headley’s responses to questions sent across in writing.