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26/11: David Headley sentenced to 35 years in prison
Last Updated : 25 Jan 2013 09:05:52 AM IST
US court to sentence 26/11 accused David Headley


Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley, a key conspirator in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 166, was sentenced to 35 years in jail by a Chicago court.


Pleased with 35 years jail-term for Pakistani-American LeT terrorist David Headley, federal US prosecutor said the verdict is a balance between the horrific crime and future incentive to get cooperation from terrorists.

"The object of this exercise at least for us in Chicago was to balance between the horrific nature of the crime and the future investigations we are going to be conducting in their acts of terrorism, another criminal activity and when we approach someone to co-operate with us, what did their lawyers are going to tell them, what that they can expect two, three,four or five years down the line when it comes time for them to sentencing. That is what this balance was about," Acting US Attorney Gary S Shapiro told reporters.

 "That is why we recommended between 30-35 years, what we believe is an extraordinarily long sentence and with the sentence impose, David Headley would not get out of the prison at least when he is 78-79, but at least it offered some real
chance of some meaningful life at the end of that time. And that is the kind of incentive we think we need to do, we need
to use to get future co-operation," Shapiro told reporters after Headley was sentenced for 35 years of imprisonment by a
Chicago court.

 Headley, 52, was ordered to serve 35 years, followed by five years of supervised release by US District Judge Harry Leinenweber 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.

  There is no federal parole and defendants must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence."I do not have the words to describe the pain the suffering inflicted upon people of Mumbai on the citizens of India and citizens of the United States and all the others who were killed and injured and the horror in mind that must have been felt by the people in Copenhagen when they learned about the plot. I am not going to even try to convey how awful those crimes were," he said.



Under his 2010 deal with prosecutors, Headley agreed to plead guilty and cooperate in exchange for a promise that he would not face the death penalty or be extradited to India.

U.S. prosecutors argued on Tuesday in asking for a relatively lenient sentence.David Headley, 52, pleaded guilty to several charges that accused him of conducting scouting missions ahead of the three-day attack, which has been called India's 9/11. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

US prosecutors took the death penalty off the table,India objects

India objected after US prosecutors took the death penalty off the table and agreed not to extradite Headley in exchange for his cooperation after his October 2009 arrest in Chicago as he was set to board a flight to Pakistan.

US prosecutors have kept most of the details of Headley's cooperation under seal but say the information he began to provide "immediately" after his arrest proved too valuable to pass up.

"We had to because it's too important that we do everything we can to save lives," US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald told reporters after the 2011 conviction of Headley's childhood friend and co-conspirator Tahawwur Hussain Rana. 

Headley, 52, son of a Pakistani father and an American mother, who changed his given name of Dawood Gilani to scout targets in Mumbai without arousing suspicion, has pleaded guilty to his role in the attack that killed 160 people.

Headley pleaded guilty in 2010 to 12 charges related to the carnage in Mumbai and a second plot to attack a Danish newspaper that sparked outrage over its publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Imposing such a sentence "strikes a fair and just balance between the despicable nature of his crimes and the significant value of his cooperation," prosecutors said.

Heavily-armed militants ran rampage through Mumbai in November 2008, killing 166 people and wounding hundreds more over nearly three days in a prolonged assault on the Indian financial capital.

In a plot that reads like a spy thriller, Headley spent two years casing out Mumbai, even taking boat tours around the city's  harbour to find landing sites for the attackers and befriending Bollywood stars as part of his cover.

Prosecutors described it as a supporting but "essential" role.

The Washington-born son of a former Pakistani diplomat and American woman, Headley's Western appearance and US passport helped him slip under the radar for much of the seven years he spent working with militant groups.

And while he quickly turned informant to save his own skin, prosecutors said Headley was committed to the cause of terrorism.

He was so eager to attack Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper that he began working seriously on that plot two months before the Mumbai attack.

He also had Bollywood and one of India's most sacred Hindu temples in his sights as he began plotting a second attack on India during a March 2009 surveillance trip.

Rane was sentenced to 14 years in jail

Rana, 52, was sentenced to 14 years in prison last week for letting Headley use his Chicago-based immigration firm as a cover while working on the Denmark plot for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the group India blames for the Mumbai attacks.

Fitzgerald did say that Headley had provided details about dozens of potential targets in India and Denmark that were under surveillance.

Headley - who changed his name from Daood Gilani so he could hide his Pakistani heritage - joined LeT in 2002, attending terrorist training camps five times over the next three years.


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