26/11 trial: FBI agents likely to depose,via video conference

With officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation expected to be named as witnesses in the 26/11 terror attacks case...

Written by Sagnik Chowdhury | Mumbai | Published:February 22, 2009 1:49 am

With officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) expected to be named as witnesses in the 26/11 terror attacks case,top police officials said there is a strong possibility that the FBI agents will not fly down to the city and physically depose before the special court set up for the case,but will give their statements via a satellite link-up with the US.

Sources said once the Mumbai Police Crime Branch team returned from the US with “documentary and oral evidence” from various sources there through a Letter Rogatory,it is almost certain that FBI agents and other sources in the US will be named as witnesses and asked to depose during the 26/11 trial.

“The Crime Branch team has returned with certain documentary and oral evidence from sources in the US,and now these people will be required to depose in the case. We are keenly looking at the possibility of having them to depose via a video-conferencing facility that can be set up at the special court. However,this will only be possible if the court allows it,” said a police officer who did not wish to be named.

Under the Criminal Procedure Code,there are three ways in which a witness can depose during a trial — by being physically present in the court,through video conferencing or by “appointing a commission” in case a witness is unable to move at all due to unavoidable reasons. In the last case,the court appoints an independent lawyer or “commission” who goes to the witness — along with the public prosecutor,defence advocate and the accused — and records his deposition.

A video-conferencing link between Mumbai and New York was earlier used to record evidence in a case on November 22,2003. A New York based doctor — Dr Ernest Greenberg of Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital,whose evidence was vital to a medical negligence case filed against a cancer specialist who was associated with Bombay Hospital — had deposed via a satellite link-up and his evidence was digitally recorded at a VSNL studio in Mumbai.

In this case,while the trial court had allowed video-conferencing of the US-based doctor,the Bombay High Court had disallowed it. However,the matter then went to the Supreme Court that struck down the High Court order.

Besides FBI officials who have provided evidence pertaining to the telephonic conversations between the terrorists and their handlers in Pakistan,officials of the New Jersey-based Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service Callphonex used by the terrorists also provided documentary evidence to the Crime Branch team. The Crime Branch has also secured from the US the purchase and sale details of the Yamaha outboard motor used by the terrorists in the boat.

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