Chicago/Mumbai: India's once of the most wanted terrorists David Headley has been sentenced to 35 years in prison by the Chicago court.
Giving his order, US district judge Harry D Leinenweber said: "Headley commits crime, cooperates and then gets rewarded for the cooperation.It would have been much easier to impose the death penalty."
The judge said the Pakistani-American LeT terrorist, who "unquestionably contributed" to Mumbai attacks that claimed 166 lives, deserved life but had to consider cooperation. He was being given linent punishment as he cooperated with the authorities in their investigations.
With Headley dodging death, the US has cheated India on his extradition. Headley's sentencing has also exposed the double face of the US government.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland recently said as part of their citing a long-held policy, the “United States does not negotiate with terrorists". However, Headley's verdict shows how the US government went on to negotiate with the terrorist.
Headley only cooperated with the officials assured to "save his life" and he does not face extradition."
Defense said Headley led a "secular" life until his 40s working at bars, video stores, doing drugs. His information has made India, Pakistan & other countries safer. Headley cooperation has literally saved lives."
India has expressed disappointment over the US' refusal to extradite the Lashkar terrorist even as it vowed to continue to pursue with its demand for bringing him here.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid also sent out a strong message to Pakistan, saying there cannot be "any form of closure" to the Mumbai attacks unless all perpetrators, including LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, are brought to book. "If Headley had been brought to India, he would have received a more stringent punishment."
The US has also often 'befooled' India with its continuous flip-flop on Headley's extradition. US Attorney Gary S Shapiro had recently ruled out any extradition for the American-born ultra, in lieu of providing crucial information about various other terror outfits. After his arrest, he also provided investigators with detailed information on the inner workings of Lashkar, the now outlawed Pakistani Islamist terror group that planned the Mumbai attacks.
However, the Attorney has now indicated there is still some possibility of extraditing Pakistani-American LeT terrorist David Headley to India, if the Mumbai terror attacks convict violates his plea agreement.
Going into rare hypothetical scenario, which a government official normally does not do before the media, the Acting US Attorney Gary S Shapiro told reporters that for this Headley would have to violate his guilty plea by not co-operating the US government or any foreign government in future investigations and not being truthful.
In that case, his guilty plea, under which he can't by extradited, would be null and void.
Thereafter Headley could be subject to the extradition treaty between India and the US, he said.
Headley, a US citizen partly of Pakistani descent, was sentenced Thursday to 35 years in prison for a dozen federal terrorism crimes relating to his role in planning the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and a subsequent proposed attack on a newspaper in Denmark.
Headley pleaded guilty in March 2010 to all 12 counts that were brought against him following his arrest in October 2009 as he was about to leave the country.
Immediately after his arrest, Headley began cooperating with authorities.
Headley, 52, was ordered to serve 35 years, followed by five years of supervised release by US District Judge Harry Leinenweber.
There is no federal parole and defendants must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.
Charges against Headley
Conspiracy involving bombing public places in India
Conspiracy to murder and maim persons in India, Denmark
Attending terror training camps in Pakistan and conducting an extensive surveillance of targets in India
Sharing photographs and videos of the targets with the LeT and his ISI handlers
Aiding and abetting the murder of US citizens in India
Providing material support to foreign terrorist plots
Providing material support to top terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba
Using his friend Tahawwur Rana's immigration company as a cover for surveillance activities in India and Denmark on behalf of Pakistan-based terrorist groups, including LeT.
The US Justice Department had urged the federal judge in Chicago to sentence Headley to 35 years in jail. Headley, considered the mastermind behind the Mumbai attacks of 26/11 2008, had pleaded guilty to escape death and extradition to India. India wants to conduct another trial for Headley but the US is opposed to his extradition. The NIA was allowed to interrogate Headley in Chicago in the presence of the FBI.
Who is Headley?
Born to a Pakistani father and an American mother in June 1960, Daood Gilani, aka David Coleman Headley, spent his early days in Pakistan’s Attock district
He studied in Pakistan till his parents separated and then relocated to the US
Headley studied accounting at a community college in Philadelphia, and later operated a video store, Fliks Video, City Centre, New York
Later, on a visit to Pakistan, Headley, who used to visit Qadisiya Mosque in Lahore, saw an LeT poster which sought funds to fight ‘Jihad’ or ‘Holy War’ in India in 1998
The poster touched Headley, and he called the LeT’s office based at Model Town in Lahore to make a donation of Rs50,000 (Pakistani currency). He joined the LeT and became an important member.
(With inputs from PTI, HT, International Business Times)