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India puts in request for Rana access

The haste,sources said,was because of the fear that Rana may move a plea bargain soon and,just like in the case of David Coleman Headley last year,access would be denied

In the wake of 26/11 accused Tahawwur Hussain Rana’s confession to an Illinois court that he was acting at the behest of the Pakistan state and the ISI,India has lost no time in putting in a request for access to question Rana,a Pakistan-origin Canadian.

The haste,sources said,was because of the fear that Rana may move a plea bargain soon and,just like in the case of David Coleman Headley last year,access would be denied. To ensure that no legal loophole can be exploited to prevent a case on extraditing Rana,the government has moved immediately after this fresh submission before the court.

Last year,along with a request for Headley,India had also sought access for Rana but a response is still awaited. Investigative agencies would want to avoid a situation like that of Headley,where no magistrate could be present. More details will also be sought from FBI in the case.

According to court documents that emerged before his trial in Chicago,Rana said his involvement in the Mumbai attack,that of providing material support,was all done “at the behest of the Pakistani government and the ISI,not the Lashkar terrorist organisation”. In fact,these documents reportedly also cite Headley’s testimony before the jury which named the ISI.

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The reason Rana is coming out with this is to invoke the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act which gives him an outside chance to seek immunity from criminal proceedings in the US because it can be argued that the ISI is authorised by its government to act in India to protect Pakistan’s national interests.

It may be recalled that according to information available with India Rana was in direct contact with one Major Iqbal of the ISI,from whom he would directly receive instructions. Sources maintained that the revelation came as no surprise to Indian authorities and it had conveyed these details to US authorities two years ago. While hoping to obtain access to Rana,the Indian side is clear that it does not want this to derail the dialogue process with Pakistan,which includes talks on terror.

The MEA spokesperson had,in fact,made this clear right after the Rana confession. “This dialogue will naturally seek to address our terrorism-related concerns,particularly with respect to the Mumbai terrorist attack. This issue figured prominently in the recently concluded Home Secretary-level talks as also in various recent interactions with the Government of Pakistan. Clearly,there is no dilution of our position in this regard.”

First published on: 16-04-2011 at 01:00 IST
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