Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Coleman Headley told a special court on Saturday that he told the National Investigation Agency in 2010 that Ishrat Jahan was an LeT militant and wondered why it was not mentioned in the organisation’s statement.
During cross-examination by defence lawyer Wahab Khan on behalf of key accused Abu Jundal, Headley said he told NIA that “a female member of LeT who had died in an encounter in India was Ishrat Jahan” but added that he didn’t know why that was “ignored” by the NIA.
The cross-examination via video link of 55-year-old Headley, serving a 35 year prison term in the United States, concluded after four days of intense grilling.
A student in Maharashtra’s Mumbra region, Jahan was killed along with three others in an alleged fake encounter in Gujarat in 2004. The death has remained at the centre of a political storm for over a decade and caused central agencies to contradict each other in court.
Headley said he had informed the NIA that “this woman (Jahan) was an Indian and a LeT operative” but could not explain why this was not recorded in his statement.
“It would be correct to say that I have no personal knowledge about Ishrat Jahan,” he added.
The statement comes a month after a controversy involving former Union home secretary GK Pillai, who alleged the then UPA government omitted a reference to 19-year-old Jahan’s possible LeT links.
Pillai was the home secretary when the ministry filed two affidavits within two months in 2009 with regard to Jahan’s encounter. P Chidambaram was Union home minister then.
In the first affidavit on August 6, 2009 in the Gujarat high court, the home ministry said Jahan and Javed Ghulam Sheikh, the person she was traveling with, were members of the LeT.
The affidavit said two months prior to the encounter, Javed had allegedly met LeT operative Muzammil in Oman.
But in September same year, the ministry made an about turn and said the central government was not concerned with the merits of the action taken by the Gujarat police and anything stated in the (first) affidavit was not intended to support or justify the action of the state police.
Pillai told a news channel that change in the affidavit was not done at his level.
“I would say it was done at the political level,” said Pillai.
In February, Headley said during examination by prosecution that there was a women’s wing of LeT. However, during cross-examination, he stated that “defence is pre-supposing this.”
Explaining this, Headley said, “I had no knowledge of women’s wing that was for combat but there is a women’s wing that takes care of women’s issues and other social things.
To a query by the defence lawyer on the “social issues” taken up by the women’s wing, Headley replied it takes care of religious education, widows and other such things.
Headley, who has turned approver in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks case, was answering questions put to him by the defence lawyer via the video-link.
On whether NIA read out the statement to him, Headley said, “No” and added that the agency just took down the notes.