Headley turns approver

One of the main conspirators in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, US national David Coleman Headley , who is serving a 35-year jail term in the US, will depose as a prosecution witness in a Mumbai court on February 8 after the special court accepted his plea to turn approver and pardoned him in the case. “I pled guilty in the past to the charges in the US and I admitted I was a participant in these charges. I have accepted to my role in those offences (relating to the 26/11 attacks) in my plea agreement. I appear here ready to answer questions regarding these events if I receive a pardon from this court.That's it. Thank you,“ Headley told the trial court via videoconference from an undisclosed location in the US. He clarified that he was not threatened and pressure was not exerted on him to turn approver. Judge G A Sanap presided over the two-and-a-half hour proceedings. Accepting special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam's reasons for accepting Headley as an approver and granting him pardon, the judge pointed out that the facts that the criminal conspiracy was hatched outside India and there was no direct evidence regarding the criminal conspirators, were considered. “David Coleman Headley has willingly expressed his desire to unfold the larger criminal conspiracy behind the attacks. If the request made by such a person who was directly involved in the criminal conspiracy is rejected, it will become very difficult for the prosecution to bring on record the direct and best evidence,“ the judge said.
The highly-secured proceedings commenced at 6.30 pm.Police personnel were deployed outside the court even as the building was deserted.The courts shut at 5.45 pm every day . Over the next half hour, the judge took note of all present in the two windows that appeared over the large newly procured LED TV mounted on a stand in the court room.
The 55-year-old, who was dressed in a blue prison jumpsuit, said, “My name is Dawood Gilani and I also go by the name of David Headley .“ He attended the proceedings from a yellow, rundown room. Seated before a table, he was flanked by his defence attorneys on each side. Also at the table were an FBI officer and Sarah, assistant district attorney from the Department of Justice of the northern district of Illinois.
Headley appeared nonchalant during the proceedings and smiled on occasion. Every time the judge asked him if he could hear him clearly or had understood what was explained to him, he replied with a terse, “Yes“. At one point, when Sarah did not understand what was being said, Headley intervened, switched off the mike and proceeded to explain what the judge had said.
Also attending the proceedings via video-conference from Washington DC were two officers of the Indian embassy and the India desk officer from the department of justice.
Headley's evidence has now become important in the light of the role of co-conspirator and alleged handler of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008, suspected Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative Zabihuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal. He is the sole person under trial in the case. Executed Pakistani gunman, Ajmal Kasab, had identified Jundal as his handler. Jundal also attended the proceedings via video-conference from Arthur Road jail, where he is lodged, and diligently took down notes.
Referring to Jundal, the judge observed, “ Abu Jundal is facing charges in the terror attacks as a conspirator. The evidence would be of immense importance and assistance to the case of the prosecution.It is very difficult and hard to get direct evidence and a firsthand account of the criminal conspiracy . There should not be any hitch in accepting the proposal to making Headley an approver and tendering him pardon,“ judge Sanap said. The court, however, imposed certain conditions on Headley before granting the pardon.
“He should disclose all full and true facts leading to the attacks within your knowledge.He should also disclose his role and that of others. He should disclose all facts which he admitted before the court in the US. He should correctly answer questions of the prosecution about offences committed by him and others,“ judge Sanap said.
Prior to the plea, the judge, while referring to Headley as accused No. 2 in the case, explained charges, including those under the Indian Penal Code for criminal conspiracy , waging war against the nation and under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act under which he was charged.
In the end when Headley sought a copy of the order, Nikam joked and said “ Dont worry , you are now our witness,“ the judge clarified that he was a court witness.

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