Terrorist in crosshairs of Indian legal team

June 4, 2010 12:33:29 PM PDT
A four-person interrogation squad from India is in Chicago today to question admitted Mumbai massacre-mind David Coleman Headley. The November 2008 assault on Mumbai, India claimed 166 innocent lives and was carried out by Pakistani extremists. In a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in Chicago, Headley-an American with Pakistani roots-confessed to his role in scouting attack targets for the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT.) He pleaded guilty in the case.

American and Indian government officials on Friday declined to discuss the details of Mr. Headley's examination by the law enforcement team from Mumbai, however CNN's newsgathering affiliate in India reports that the grilling began Thursday night.

At a news conference in Washington on Friday, India's Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said he "cannot spell out the day-to-day updates in such delicate and sensitive matters. It is not appropriate." But Krishna cited "overwhelming evidence that Headley is a conspirator in 26/11. India will use all the force at its command and will put forward the plea that we should have access to Headley." 26/11 is the shorthand for the November 26, 2008 attack on Mumbai.

Minister Krishna noted that while Headley, 49, was a US citizen fully covered by American laws, "we have to respect whatever safeguards the US system provides him as much as they respect Indian laws and our judicial process."

Among the items atop a long list of questions to be asked by Indian authorities is this: when was Headley in their country, where did he go and who helped him in his travels-especially during the final visit in March 2009.

Headley's itinerary details are key to the Indian investigation of synchronized terror strikes on Jewish houses located in five cities, according to law enforcement sources in the U.S. and south Asia.

As part of his guilty plea with federal prosecutors in Chicago, Headley is cooperating with Indian authorities but will not be extradited to India-or face the death penalty in the United States.

Access to the Chicago terrorist comes as diplomatic talks between the U.S. and India conclude in Washington. The timing of the Headley meeting, believed to be at the Metro Correctional Center in downtown Chicago, is not considered to be coincidental. Despite Headley's plea deal promise to allow interrogation by foreign authorities, the Obama administration has been slow to allow consummation of the agreement.

President Barack Obama on Thursday met with U.S. and Indian officials gathered at a State Department reception and said that he will visit the nation in early November.


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