‘What Headley said about Ishrat is hearsay’
NEW DELHI: Almost five years before David Coleman Headley’s deposition in the 26/11 trial mentioning Ishrat Jahan, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had termed his statement to the agency on the same subject as hearsay which is not going to serve the purpose of the probe.
Even in the court deposition, Headley has not stated anything that goes beyond what he had already told the NIA five years back but a political slugfest started over ‘revelations’ of Headley who had been sent by Lashkar-etayyeba to a do a recce of the 26/11 Mumbai attack targets.
On a request received from the special investigation team (SIT), probing the encounter in which the 19-year-old Mumbai girl was killed along with her alleged associates in Ahmedabad in June 2004, the NIA wrote back in May, 2011 saying the relevant portion of Headley’s statement with reference to Ishrat Jahan is in the nature of hearsay.
“(The portion of the statement) will not be admissible as evidence. Therefore sharing of this portion of statement may not serve the purpose of investigation,” said the NIA letter to the SIT.
In his statement to the NIA, Headley had said that in 2005, Lashkar’s operational commander and later prime accused in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Zaki-urrehman Lakhvi introduced him his key associate Muzammil Bhat.
Headley told NIA that Zaki talked about the accomplishments of Muzammil as a Lashkar commander. Zaki also sarcastically mentioned that Muzammil was a top commander whose every big ‘project’ has ended in failure. Zaki added that ‘Ishrat Jahan module’ was also one of Muzammil’s ‘botched up’ operations.
Headley stated that apart from this he had no other information/ knowledge about Ishrat Jahaan.
“The agency also provided the same detail to the Gujarat high court which was hearing a petition for CBI probe in the case,” said a home ministry official requesting annoymity. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation also reported that Zaki had told Headley that Muzammil recruited a female suicide bomber named ‘Ishrat Jahaan’. The Headley statement mentioning Ishrat, recorded by the FBI sleuths was also shared with the Indian government through diplomatic channels.
In his deposition through video conferencing in the 26/11 trial, Headley again repeated that Muzammil had told him about a botched up operation involving a female suicide bomber in India.
Investigators say the portions of all three statements - to the NIA, the FBI and during the 26/11 trial - of Headley - mentioning Ishrat Jahan are hearsay evidence. Legal experts concur with it. “A hearsay evidence is not admitted as evidence in court as it an assertion other than one made by a person giving oral evidence,” says KC Mittal, former chairman of Delhi Bar Council. In case of Headley, he says Muzammil told him about a botched up operation involving a female suicide bomber. Therefore it is the claim of Muzammil that Headley is repeating, added Mittal.