The deposition of David Coleman Headley began before a special Mumbai court today via video conferencing. His deposition will continue for the next few days as well.
In a significant development, Headley identified the photo of Hafiz Saeed, who he said was head of LeT and added that he joined the organisation motivated by his speeches.
Headley also revealed that, before 26/11, LeT attempted the attack twice, in September that year and once again later, with the same 10 people, but the plan failed.
Headley, who deposed as an approver against Abu Jundal, in his statement to the court admitted that he was a LET operative and was sent to Mumbai on the behest of Sajid Mir, a main contact of Headley, who is an accused in 26/11 attack case and also a LeT operative. Headley added that he made a new passport just to enter in India.
He also told court that he visited to Mumbai 7 times before the 26/11 attacks, and once after the attack. Further, Headley also conducted video shooting of Mumbai on instructions of Mir, who also told him to settle in Mumbai and set up an office.
Headley added that he came to Mumbai using a false identity as ‘David Coleman Headley’. During his deposition, he stated that he is a follower of LeT, and had a general idea about why was he sent to Mumbai.
The deposition further revealed that Headley's military school friend, Dr. Tahbbur Rana, who helped him in getting the visa, knew the real purpose to Headley's visit to Mumbai.
It was further learnt that some people from Pakistan helped in sending him to Mumbai because they though he could be useful for them as an intelligence in India.
Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam is leading the prosecution case while well-known criminal lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani is representing Headley before Special TADA Court Judge G.A. Sanap at the five-hour proceedings.
Flanked by three persons -- his attorney John, a US attorney Sarah and an unidenfied person Bob -- Headley was administered the oath at 7.30 a.m. and Nikam started firing the questions at him.
Within a couple of hours, Nikam had posed around five dozen questions where Headley also revealed that most of the information on his visa application was false so that he would not blow his cover.
"This is the first time that a terrorist is deposing and tendering evidence live in a foreign country. He will divulge the largers aspects of the 26/11 terror conspiracy, the people behind it and related aspects," SPP Nikam said on the eve of the trial.
Headley's ongoing evidence could help the prosecution nail the alleged co-conspirators in the attacks Zakiur Rehman Lakshi, the terrorists' handlers, the role and involvement of other state and non-state actors, the role of another arrested LeT activist Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, currently in a Mumbai jail.
At the previous hearing on December 10 last year, a special judge had pardoned Headley and made him an approver in the case subject to certain conditions.
Headley, a man with American-Pakistani origins, was asked by Judge Sanap to disclose all information pertaining to the 26/11 case which he had earlier shared with the US courts.
This could shed light on the 26/11 conspiracy and the role of various terror groups, and other crucial details of the terror strike at multiple locations which left 166 dead on November 26-28, 2008.
Headley had already confessed to his role in the offences in the US for which he is seving a 35-year sentence.
(With IANS inputs)
Following his introduction to the court, Headley was asked to stand up and take an oath that whatever he says before court is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Dressed in a grey t-shirt and brown trousers, Headley answered every question posed to him without hesitation. The question-answer session lasted for almost five hours — from 7.30 am to 12.15 pm — during which two short recesses of 20 minutes each were taken.
Excerpts from Q&A
Nikam (N): You entered into a plea agreement with the US government in 2010. Is that right?
Headley (H): Yes
N: By the said agreement, you will truthfully testify before foreign judiciary via video-telephonic conference?
N: You also agree that if you do not agree, you will be entailed to death penalty for all the offences?
N: Is it that US court framed 12 charges in all and you pleaded guilty?
N: Your profile please?
H: I was born on June 30, 1960, in Washington DC, US. I am a citizen of US by birth. Immediately after my birth, my parents took me to Pakistan where I did my schooling at Habib public school in Karachi and then went to Hasan Abdal Cadet College in Punjab Province. It was an army type school for five years and later, at the age of 18, I shifted back to the US. I stayed there with my mother.
N: Which languages do you know?
H: English, Hindi and Urdu.
N: What was your name at birth?
H: Dawood Gilani.
N: Your father’s name?
H: Saleem Gilani
N: What is your present name?
H: David Coleman Headley.
N: When did you apply for change of name?
H: I applied in October 2005 and it was changed in Philadelphia on February 15, 2006.
N: Where did you decide to change your name?
H: In Pakistan.
PAK AND LeT LINKS
N: Why did you change your name?
H: To secure a passport in that name.
N: Why did you want a new passport?
H: So that I can enter India.
N: Why did you change the name when you could’ve entered using your original name?
H: So that I could conceal my real identity.
N: After changing the name, which country did you visit first?
N: In Pakistan, to whom did you inform about the name change?
H: I disclosed it to my colleagues in LeT.
N: Who were your colleagues?
H: Sajid Mir. He was the person I was dealing with. Though I met several, he was my main contact.
N: Why did you inform Mir about the name change?
H: It was he who had asked me to change my name, so I informed him.
N: How did he react upon hearing your new name?
H: He was pleased and approved it.
N: When did you visit Pakistan after changing your name?
H: Immediately. Maybe a few weeks later.
N: May I know what was the task given for which you were asked to change your name?
H: I was assigned the task of visiting India and opening an office.
N: What was the intention behind setting up the office?
H: So that I could settle down.
N: Any specific reason?
H: Initially he didn’t mention anything, but later he did. Mir asked me to shoot a video of Mumbai.
N: Did you check the purpose with him?
H: I didn’t.
N: You didn’t ask because you were an LeT follower?
H: I was a true follower. I had a fair idea about it (as to why I was assigned to take a general video of Mumbai.)
N: Were you issued any US passport?
H: Yes. In the name of Sayyed Dawood Gilani
N: What happened of it?
H: I think, I returned it for a new one.
N: How many times did you visit Mumbai before 26/11 terror attack?
H: Seven times.
N: How many times did you visit Mumbai after the attack?
H: Only once, on March 7, 2009.
N: Out of eight, seven times you came to Mumbai via Karachi?
H: It’s correct.
(Headley was shown two passports in which he identified his photos, signatures and contents. When he was asked about the passports, he said)
H: I submitted these documents in Chicago on June 30, 2006. Some of the contents of documents are incorrect. The contents, which are incorrect, were written by me.
N: What was the purpose behind submitting false info?
H: The purpose was to protect my identity while applying for visa.
N: What was the incorrect info?
H: Father’s name, Nationality of Father, Marital Status, Address, Phone number, Profession… ‘Pretty much everything’, except place and date of birth, mother’s nationality, my nationality and passport number. Rest everything is false.
(When he was shown his second visa, he identified his photo, signs and its contents.)
H: This time, I was obtaining visa for 5 years for Mumbai, which I got. Details mentioned in this application were same as above. Rana knew the purpose of me visiting India, so he helped me obtain one.
(Headley informed the court that his school friend Dr Tahbbur Rana helped secure a Business visa for multiple entries.)
N: Why a business visa?
H: So that I don’t have to apply again and again.
N: What cover story did you cook up?
H: I posed as an immigration consultant in Mumbai from the Immigration Law Centre, Chicago.
N: Who had given you this advice?
H: Sajid Mir, the same LeT operative.
TRANSFORMATION INTO A PAK SPY
Headley said he and his friend, retired Major Abdul Pasha, were to meet drug smuggler Zaid Shah in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) near Afghan border. Headley thought Shah would help them smuggle weapons to India. However, Headley was arrested because foreigners are not allowed in FATA and also for possessing literature on India. At
FATA, he was interrogated by Ali (an ISI man at Landi Kotal next to Afghan border). Besides Ali’s intervention, Headley Pakistani identity saved him. Later, Ali introduced Headley to Major Iqbal. "I was introduced to ISI Major Iqbal by Ali, as I wanted to go to India."
When Headley was asked why did Ali introduce him to Major Iqbal, he said, "Because he thought I could be useful for intelligence work in India." Headley identified Mir when he was shown his picture.
ATTACK ON MUMBAI
N: Has anyone from LeT ever mentioned about attack prior to 26/11?
H: Mir told me that two earlier attacks had failed.
N: When was the first attack attempted and why did it fail?
H: It was in September 2008. This attack failed because the boat hit against some rocks in the ocean and disintegrated. Those onboard swam to the safety of the shore using lifejackets.
N: Where did this boat start?
H: It probably started from Karachi.
N: What happened of the explosives and weapons on the boat?
H: All was lost in the ocean
N: When was second attempt made and why did it fail?
H: The second attempt was made in the same month or later. This also failed.
N: Who were there in that boat?
H: The same ten people as before.
N: Was LeT successful the third time?
N: Was it the same 10 people?
HEADLEY’S INSPIRATION TO JOIN LeT
N: When did you join LeT?
H:My first course was in 2002 at Muzaffarabad, in ‘Azad Kashmir’.
N: Whose speech motivated you?
H: LeT chief, Hafiz Saeed Sab
(He identified Saeed after he was showed his photograph)
N: Is Lashkar a militant organisation from Pakistan?
N: What is its goal?
H: Fight the Indian army in Kashmir and assist Kashmiris.
N: Does LeT carry out terrorist activities across India?
TRAINING WITH HAFIZ SAEED AND LAKHVI
N: Are you aware of Dawrah-e-ama?
H: It is the preliminary military course. Dawrah-e-khasa is the advanced course. It is conducted in in Muzaffarbad, Pakistan. Recruits are trained in handling explosives and weapons. Dawrah-e-riba is an intelligence course.
N: What did you learn from these courses?
H: Setting up a safe house and conducting recce, which was done near Abbotabad. All these places are protected by LeT.
N: Did take any leadership course?
H: Yes. It was conducted near Abbotabad.
N: Who were its speakers?
H: Hafiz Saeed and Zakir-ur-Rehman Lakhvi alias Lakhvi.
N:What type of lectures did they deliver?
H: Mostly religious speeches.
N: Did they teach you about Jihad?
N: What does Jihad mean to you?
H: To fight against enemies of Islam.
N: Did you, Hafiz Saeed and Lakhvi consider India as an enemy?
N: Have you every fought against Indian troops in Kashmir?
N: Did you wanted to?
N: Then why didn’t you go there?
H: Because I was told that I was too old for Kashmir
N: Who said this you?
H: Lakhvi. He said that they’d use me for other things
N: Did Lakhvi mention this specific purpose?
H: In 2006, I was instructed by Mir. But I dot know whether Lakhvi had asked Mir to do so
N: You also mentioned about Muzammil?
H: Yes. His is a Lashkar person
N: Who else do you remember?
H: Abu Furka, Sana Ulla, Abu Hanzala, Abu Usman, Abu Saeed and Abu Fahad Ulla. I don’t remember Abu Suraya and Mukti Saeed.
N: Were all these retired officers from Pakistan Military?
H: No. None of them…maybe a few
N: Did they knew how to operate sophisticated weapons?
H: If AK-47 is sophisticated, then yes.
N: All these were real or nicknames?
H:They were all nicknames.
N: Did any of them ever disclose their real names to you?