Learnt about Ishrat case from media: Headley
Pakistani-American terrorist-turned-approver David Coleman Headley on Saturday alleged that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) did not record his statements on various aspects of the 26/11 investigations in his “exact” words. On the fourth day of his ongoing cross-examination before a Mumbai special court, he also said that he has “no personal knowledge” about Ishrat Jahan and he had learnt about the case from the media.
“When Lakhvi (LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi) introduced Muzammil Bhat to me, he told me that he (Bhat) is one of the top LeT commanders and has done some operations like Akshardham temple, Ishrat Jahan etc... the rest were my thoughts... I came to know about Ishrat Jahan from media. These are my thoughts as to why Ishrat Jahan operation resulted in failure,” Headley said during cross-examination via video link before judge G A Sanap. “It would be correct to say that I have no personal knowledge about Ishrat Jahan,” he further said. During his earlier deposition in February, Headley had told the Mumbai court about “a botched up operation in India” of shooting at the police check-post in Gujarat. He referred to a woman killed in the shooting. When he was given three names by public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, he claimed that the name of the woman was Ishrat Jahan. Ishrat was killed along with three others in an alleged fake encounter in Gujarat in 2004. The four were accused of being involved in a plot to assassinate the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Speaking on the NIA’s role during the recording of his statements, Headley said that the Agency did not record his statement on the then LeT chief Muzammil Bhatt earlier in his “exact” words. “I never told NIA that Lakhvi introduced me to Muzammil as a top commander whose every big operation was a failure. I can’t explain why NIA did not record my statement in exact words. They never read out that statement to me after recording,” Headley claimed.
Stating that he was seeing a copy of his statement to NIA for the first time, Headley added: “I remember most of my statement to NIA so I didn’t read it. I gave details of Ishrat Jahan operation in a statement to NIA but I can’t assign a reason that why they didn’t record that.” However, defence lawyer claimed that Headley did not tell NIA about Ishrat Jahan.
Asked whether he had videographed the residence of India’s Vice-President during the surveillance done by him, he said only the outer walls of the building were videographed and it was en route from Sena Bhavan (Indian Army HQs) to National Defence College, New Delhi.
Headley said LeT chief and 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed had told him prior to the Mumbai terror attacks that Shiv Sena chief late Balasaheb Thackeray “needed to be taught a lesson”. The Lashkar terrorist had told Saeed that this would be done and might take six months to accomplish.
In another development, the judge G A Sanap rejected the plea of defence lawyer to defer the cross-examination as he had to meet the accused Abu Jundal in Mumbai Central Jail to seek instructions for further cross-examination of Headley. The court said Headley’s deposition cannot be deferred on this ground. Headley was discharged from cross-examination and soon thereafter, prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam moved an application for re-examination which was allowed by the court.
A day ago, in a new twist, Headley testified before an anti-terror court that the then Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had visited his house few weeks after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in 2008 to condole the death of his father.
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