Chicago, Mar 18: Pakistani American terrorist David Headley can now be directly questioned by Indian investigators after his confession in a Chicago court that he was involved in the Mumbai terror attacks, although he will not be extradited to India.
The US, which has so far denied India the right to question Headley, arrested by the FBI in October last year, said he has agreed to "fully and truthfully" participate in this process which has to be undertaken only on US soil.
Headley, accused of plotting the 26/11 Mumbai attacks at the behest of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba and conspiring to target a Danish newspaper, last night pleaded guilty to all terror charges before a US court here.
Under the plea bargain, he has escaped death penalty and got away with a life sentence. He also cannot be extradited from the US.
"When directed by the US Attorney s Office, Headley must fully and truthfully participate in any debriefings for the purpose of gathering intelligence or national security information," the US Department of Justice has said in a statement.
"Headley further agrees that, when directed by the United States Attorney s Office, he will fully and truthfully testify in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the United States by way of deposition, video-conferencing or letters rogatory," the statement said soon after the 49-year- old Chicago resident pleaded guilty on all 12 charges against him.
Headley’s lawyer John Theis told reporters after the over 30-minute hearing held before US District Judge Harry Leinenweber that "he has agreed to allow himself to be interviewed by foreign governments in this country" as part of the agreement. India, which had pressed for the maximum death penalty to Headley, can now approach the US to directly question him.
His admission of being trained in Pakistan terror camps nails Islamabad’s lie that such camps were non-existence. Headley faces six counts of conspiracy involving bombing public places in India, murdering and maiming persons and providing material support to foreign terrorist plots and LeT; and six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of six US citizens in the 26/11 attacks that killed 166 people.
Under the plea agreement, Headley cannot be extradited to India, Pakistan or Denmark.
"Headley has agreed to not only continue his cooperation with the government, which he has been doing since October, but also to make himself available for interviews by other governments in this country," Headley’s attorney John Theis told reporters after the over 30-minute hearing held before US District Judge Harry Leinenweber.
Headley, who had pleaded not guilty on January 14 to the charges against him, did a U-turn in the 35-page plea agreement where he pleaded guilty to all the charges.
India Will Have "Full Access" To Information On Headley: US
India will have "full access" to all the information on terror suspect David Headley, who pleaded guilty before a Chicago court to all 12 terror charges including the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, US Assistance Secretary of State for South Asia Robert Blake said in New Delhi on Friday .
However, he said he was not in a position to answer if an Indian team could go to the US to question Headley. "... But I think you will have full access to all the information and whether or not an Indian team itself can go there, I cannot answer that question because I was not in the US during that period but I encourage you to be in touch with our justice department," Blake said. Blake, who is on a visit to Afghanistan and India, said Headley’s confession had showed how the threat of Lashkar-e-Taiba had "grown significantly" and asked Pakistan to work more on that front.
He said Pakistan has made "important progress on the issue of terror but there is still work to be done." "....We still think that there needs to be progress on LeT in particular. The Headley case in our view illustrates the increasing global scope and ambition of LeT and therefore, the need for all of our countries to take the LeT threat seriously and cooperate with each other."