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NIA's seven-day access to Headley “useful”

Narayan Lakshman

Washington: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) team that travelled to the United States to interrogate the Mumbai terror attacks suspect, David Coleman Headley, was provided with seven days' access to him between June 3 and 10, authorities confirmed on Thursday evening. According to an official statement from the Indian embassy here, the team was returning to India after a “useful” visit.

Sources on both sides confirmed that access to Headley had been provided. In particular, the U.S. Department of Justice said, “Indian law enforcement officials were provided direct access to interview Headley.”

The DoJ statement explained that Headley and his counsel, John Theis, had agreed to the meetings with Indian officials, and Headley “answered Indian investigators' questions over the course of seven days of interviews.” There had been “no restrictions on the questions posed by Indian investigators, [yet] to protect the confidentiality of the investigations being conducted by both India and the United States, both countries have agreed not to disclose the contents of the interviews.”

Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar said that following discussions with U.S. Attorney-General Eric Holder, the NIA team visited the U.S. to question Headley. The visit took place “over several days, beginning from June 3, and the team is now returning to India on the conclusion of a useful visit.”

Ms. Shankar said India attached importance to this in “investigating the full dimension of this heinous act of terrorist violence [and] the support and cooperation extended by the U.S. authorities is appreciated and is in keeping with the commitment of the two countries to strengthen their cooperation in meeting the challenge of terrorism.”

In a parallel statement, U.S. Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer also confirmed from Washington that “a team of Government of India investigators had been granted direct access to Headley, and had conducted a series of interviews with him related to terrorist activities in India.”

He also noted that the team had arrived in the U.S. on May 31.

Speaking to The Hindu, Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said: “Providing Indian investigators direct access to Headley removes an irritant from the U.S-India bilateral relationship that had threatened to disrupt future counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries. Now that India has been given what appears to have been unfettered access to Headley, Indian suspicions that the U.S. might be covering up something in the investigation should now be put to rest.”

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