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US Embassy justifies Headely's jail term

Posted on Jan 25, 11:42PM | IBNS

The U.S. Embassy on Friday justified David Coleman Headley's 35-year jail term and said the sentencing of the Mumbai attack collaborator by a US court showed another step taken by the country in its efforts to bring to justice those responsible for the 26/11.

The embassy defended the U.S. Department of Justice's decision to not to seek death penalty for Headley and said it was done in view of his willingness to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to help bring the perpetrators to justice and prevent other terrorist attacks.

In a statement, the US Embassy in India said: "The 35-year sentence without parole imposed on David Coleman Headley marks another step in U.S. efforts to bring to justice those responsible for the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks."

"This sentence reflects both severe punishment for Headley's role in the heinous 26/11 crimes and a decision by the U.S. Department of Justice not to seek the death penalty. This decision was taken because of Headley's willingness to cooperate with law enforcement authorities -American, Indian and others - to help bring the perpetrators to justice and prevent other terrorist attacks," it said.

"Headley provided information that was of substantial value in our efforts to combat international terrorism and to save lives," the US Embassy said.

It said the counter-terrorism cooperation between the US and India 'is stronger than ever'.

The US Embassy said: "The FBI provided its expertise and testified in the Indian prosecution of Ajmal Kasab. We are working together to see that those responsible for 26/11 and other acts of terrorism are brought to justice, wherever they may be."

India's External Affairs Minister and Home Secretary, however, said India has consistently demanded extradition of Headley and would continue to do so for justice and other reasons.

"We will continue our efforts to ensure that all such people are extradited and brought to India for trial," said External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid speaking to reporters.

Khurshid said, "If he would have been tried in our country, he would have possibly got more than this."

"We have consistently been pushing for our position that he should be extradited. But it is good to know that he has been made accountable and given 35 years which is a beginning," Khurshid told a news channel.

Khurshid earlier too expressed disappointment at America's refusal to extradite Headley to India.

Union Home Secretary RK Singh said India would continue to demand extradition of Headley because he had not only collected information on Mumbai before the attack but also of other places.

"His recce was not limited to Mumbai alone. He visited other places too," said Singh.

Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley, who admitted to helping plot the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed more than 160 people, was sentenced to 35 years in prison by a U.S. court in Chicago on Thursday.

The sentence, delivered by U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber, was the maximum sought by federal prosecutors, who had not called for a death penalty as Headley had agreed to testify against his fellow Islamic militants.

Six Americans were also killed on the coordinated attacks in Mumbai now infamously referred to as 26/11 since it had began on the night of Nov 26 in 2008.

Headley had admitted to meticulous scouting missions that facilitated the assault by the 10 terrorists from the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

US federal prosecutors had sought a 30-35 jail term for the 52-year-old Headley, keeping in view his cooperation with the investigation.

The judge however made his distrust with Headley's statements clear as he said, "Mr Headley is a terrorist...I don't have any faith in Mr Headley when he says he's a changed person and believes in the American way of life."

Judge Leinenweber said in his sentencing order Headley had showed no remorse for those killed in the attack. When asked, he said they were Indians and they deserved it.

The once small-time US drug dealer-turned-terrorist plotter had also testified against Tahawwur Rana, a Chicago businessman convicted of providing aid to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Gary Shapiro, the acting US Attorney in Chicago said on Tuesday that the 30-35 year sentence recommended by the prosecution for Headley was fair.

"While his criminal conduct was deplorable, the uniquely significant cooperation which he provided to the government's efforts to combat terrorism supports the government's recommendations," reports quoted him as saying in a memo to the federal court on Tuesday.

Besides the LeT, Headley was also found guilty of having colluded with terrorist outfits such as Al-Qaeda.

Headly, who had also pleaded guilty to conspiring to attack the office of a Denmark newspaper, was arrested in Chicago in November 2009.

The 52-year-old terrorist was spared a death sentence and also promised not to be extradited to India where he was likely to have faced a harsher trial.

The Pakistani terrorists who came by sea route had massacred people wantonly in Mumbai attacking luxury hotels, railways stations, hospitals and a Jewish centre till nine of the ten gunmen were killed by the Indian commandoes and cops after battling for more than two days of the siege by the gunmen.

The lone surviving gunman in the attack, Ajmal Kasab, was hanged by India last year.