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Headley grilled without US restrictions

world Updated: Jun 12, 2010 00:54 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times
National Investigation Agency

The four-member team of the National Investigation Agency has completed a week-long grilling of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba operative David Coleman Headley, a process with “no restrictions” that the Indian Ambassador to the United States has described as "useful".

The NIA team, led by Inspector General-level officer Loknath Behera questioned the Pakistani-American, considered by Indian authorities to be one of the principal planners of the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks, in Chicago, where he is being held in a federal facility.

In her statement, Ambassador Meera Shankar said that the interrogation "took place over several days, beginning from June 3, 2010, and the team is now returning to India on the conclusion of a useful visit."

In a statement released within minutes of the Indian Ambassador’s release, the US Department of Justice said that "Headley and his counsel agreed to the meetings and Headley answered the Indian investigators’ questions over the course of seven days of interviews."

There has been speculation during the past week that Headley may not have answered many of the NIA team’s questions.

But one person, who was part of the interrogation process, told the Hindustan Times that such speculation was not correct, adding that such speculation had "proved frustrating to the people involved" in the process.

Ambassador Shankar said that: "The support and cooperation extended by the US authorities is appreciated and is in keeping with the commitment of the two countries to strengthen their cooperation in meeting the challenge of terrorism."

Headley had pleaded guilty on March 18 this year to the 12 federal charges of terrorism leveled against him, including that of conspiracy to bomb public places in India.

He had entered into a plea bargain deal with prosecutors under which he was spared the maximum sentence of death penalty but still faces life imprisonment.

The agreement also meant that he could not be extradited to India but it made clear that he would be available for questioning by foreign investigators including those from India.