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US media seeks release of Headley terror trial tape

Key US media are seeking the release of a behind-the-scenes videotape of FBI agents interrogating admitted terrorist David Coleman Headley that was played in open court during a recent terrorism trial.

world Updated: Oct 08, 2011 19:16 IST

Key US media are seeking the release of a behind-the-scenes videotape of FBI agents interrogating admitted terrorist David Coleman Headley that was played in open court during a recent terrorism trial.

Confessed Pakistani-American terror plotter David Headley was the star witness in the conviction of his Pakistani-Canadian boyhood friend Tahawwur Rana for helping the Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

While Rana was cleared by the court of involvement in the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, he was convicted of helping LeT plan a foiled attack on a Danish newspaper which published controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Several news organisations made a routine request for copies of Headley's FBI video that was played in court, but US Federal prosecutors in Chicago refused to do so, according to ABC News.

In a motion filed on late Thursday in federal court in Chicago, they have asked that the US attorney be directed to turn over the tapes.

After Headley was arrested, and during almost two weeks of FBI questioning, he turned on his boyhood friend Rana. Parts of that interrogation were played in court by Rana's attorney, who suggested that Headley was simply trying to save himself.

But Rana's lawyer neglected to enter the video into evidence, a technicality now claimed by prosecutors as the reason they don't have to make it public.

But in a motion filed Thursday for media access to the video, ProPublica, a public interest reporting organisation, and the PBS show Frontline are demanding the video, citing a court ruling that "what transpires in the courtroom is public property".

In Rana's case, the court already overruled the prosecution's objections and allowed the tapes shown.

Jurors and the courtroom public saw "scenes of a palpably nervous Headley groping for one last deal", a plea bargain for himself to avoid the death penalty.

The motion notes that Headley has in the past successfully manipulated and evaded federal authorities, who even failed to investigate warnings from his relatives including Headley's wife, Faiza Outalha, that he was plotting terror attacks.

The motion filed Thursday asks for the video to be turned over quickly, citing an hour-long terrorism documentary that Frontline is planning to air next month.

There is a court hearing on the motion to obtain video clips scheduled for Wednesday.