MUMBAI: Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley told a special court trying the 26/11 attack case that he has "no personal knowledge" about Ishrat Jehan and he had learnt about the case from the media.
"It would be correct to say that I have no personal knowledge about Ishrat Jahan," he said during cross- examination via video link before judge G A Sanap. While deposing last month, Headley had told the court that Ishrat, a 19-year-old college girl, was working for LeT.
Ishrat was killed along with three others in an alleged fake encounter in Gujarat in 2004. The four were accused of being involved in a plot to assassinate the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. "When Lakhvi (LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi) introduced Muzammil Bhat to me, he told me that he (Bhat) is one of the top LeT commanders and has done some operations like Akshardham temple, Ishrat Jahan etc... the rest were my thoughts... I came to know about Ishrat Jahan from media.
These are my thoughts as to why Ishrat Jahan operation resulted in failure," Headley said. The cross-examination of 55-year-old Headley, serving a 35 year prison term in the US, concluded today after four days of intense grilling.
Headley had said during examination by prosecution last month that there was a women's wing LeT. However, during cross-examination, he stated that "defence is pre-supposing this."
Explaining this, Headley said, "I had no knowledge of women's wing that was for combat but there is a women's wing that takes care of women's issues and other social things.
To a query by the defence lawyer on the "social issues" taken up by the women's wing, Headley replied it takes care of religious education, widows and other such things. During cross-examination by defence lawyer Wahab Khan on behalf of key accused Abu Jundal, Headley also claimed he had told NIA that "a female member of LeT who had died in an encounter in India was Ishrat Jahan" but could not say why that was ignored by NIA.
Asked whether he had videographed the residence of India's Vice President during the surveillance done by him, he said only the outer walls of the building were videographed and it was en route from Sena Bhavan (Indian Army HQs) to National Defence College, New Delhi.
Headley said LeT chief and 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed had told him prior to the Mumbai terror attacks that Shiv Sena Chief late Balasaheb Thackeray "needed to be taught a lesson". The Lashkar terrorist had told Saeed that this would be done and might take six months to accomplish.
In another development, the judge G A Sanap rejected the plea of defence lawyer to defer the cross-examination as he had to meet the accused Abu Jundal in Mumbai Central Jail to seek instructions for further cross-examination of Headley. The court said Headley's deposition cannot be deferred on this ground.
Headley was discharged from cross-examination and soon thereafter, prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam moved an application for re-examination which was allowed by the court. Earlier, Headley went back on a part of his statement to NIA, saying that he did not tell the probe agency about Lakhvi informing him that "Ishrat Jahan module" was a "botched-up operation" and added that "these were my thoughts".
"No, I did not say this to NIA and cannot assign any reason why it has been so recorded," he told the judge.
During re-examination by Nikam, Headley said he had referred to Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai while deposing earlier about his visit to a nuclear power plant to conduct surveillance for potential targets.
"I visited BARC on the recommendation of Major Iqbal (of Pakistan)", Headley told Nikam. Before the conclusion of deposition, Headley told the defence lawyer "Kaha Suna Maaf" (please excuse me for my utterances).
On whether NIA read out the statement to him, Headley said, "No" and added that the agency just took down the notes. To a question, the Lashkar operative, who has been convicted in the US for his role in the 26/11 attacks, said neither he had requested the NIA for a copy of the statement nor did they provide it to him.
He said that this is for the first time that he was being shown his statement in the court. Headley told defence lawyer "it is baseless to say that I am trying to supress the role of my wife Shazia, brother Daniel and friend Saulat (Rana) in the 26/11 attacks in order to shield them".
He also denied that he had pleaded guilty in this case in US court to prevent arrest of his family members for their alleged role in the 26/11 attacks, forfeiture of property and imposition of fines. Headley said he believed that India, Israel and the US are enemies of Islam.