ISLAMABAD: The Indian government has offered to share its records on US citizen David Headley to strengthen the case against the eight Pakistani suspects being tried for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, but Pakistani officials are sceptical about the efficacy of that evidence.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs has written to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan, offering that its records related to Headley might prove useful to the prosecution that is pursuing the case against Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, and seven other suspects, a government official told Dawn.
Headley, who was convicted by a US federal court for conspiring with the Mumbai attackers, is currently facing a 35-year jail term there.
Headley was prosecuted by a Mumbai special court in Feb 2016, via video link from his prison cell in the US.
The official said that Indian authorities were ready to send a dossier on the proceedings of the trial, as well as Headley’s confession, which was recorded by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA).
####Documents offered by Indian govt won’t be beneficial to prosecution’s case, officials say
According to the Indian media, Headley said that at least 10 people involved in the Nov 26, 2008 attacks had made an earlier attempt to attack Mumbai in Sept 2008.
A senior federal government official, however, said that the confession and the trial proceedings were already available on different websites, adding: “These [documents] are not of any use and would not be beneficial to the [prosecution’s case]”.
He explained that Headley was not a Pakistani citizen, nor was he nominated as an accused in the First Information Report (FIR) registered by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) in connection with Mumbai attacks.
The Federal Investigation Agency’s SIU registered the FIR against 20 suspects, including Lakhvi, on Feb 2, 2009.
Lakhvi and others – Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hammad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younus Anjum – are being tried by an ATC since 2009. In August last year, FIA arrested an alleged financier of the 26/11 attacks, Sufyan Zafar, who is also being tried by the same court.
The Indian government had also asked Pakistani authorities to constitute a commission to record the statements of 24 Indian witnesses.
The proposal came in response to Pakistan’s request to make arrangements for prosecution witnesses from India to appear before the anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Islamabad.
The Pakistan Peoples Party government had agreed with the Indian government at the time that out of 24 witnesses, only four would testify before a Pakistani panel of prosecutors and defence counsels and none of them would be cross-examined.
Subsequently, a Pakistan panel went to Mumbai in 2012 and recorded the statements of four witnesses: Magistrate R.V. Sawant Waghule, who recorded the confession of Ajmal Kasab; Ramesh Mahale, the chief investigator; and Ganesh Dhunraj and Chintaman Mohite, the doctors who autopsied the bodies of the terrorists killed during the attacks.
The ATC, in July 2012, rejected the proceedings of the Mumbai commission since the witnesses were not cross-examined. Subsequently, the Pakistan panel travelled to Mumbai again in 2013 to cross-examine the witnesses.
But in January last year, the prosecution filed an application with the ATC to summon all prosecution witnesses to record their statements, which was accepted by the court.
In January 2016, after the Islamabad ATC summoned the 24 Indian witnesses, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked the Indian government for access to the eyewitnesses and survivors of the Mumbai attacks, as well as the doctors who autopsied the terrorists killed.
According to a statement submitted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the ATC about a month ago, New Delhi’s reply to that letter is still awaited.
The prosecution in Pakistan, meanwhile, has recorded the testimonies of 73 Pakistani witnesses so far.
According to a senior prosecutor, there are 141 witnesses against the Pakistani suspects in the Mumbai attacks case, the including 24 Indian witnesses.
He said that the court was “now waiting for Indian witnesses.”
After the Indian witnesses testify, the prosecution would request the ATC to summon the remaining witnesses, who are law enforcement officials and the members of the joint investigation team that arrested the accused and carried out the investigation.
Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2017