Chicago: Pakistani-American LeT terrorist David Headley was today sentenced to 35 years in jail by a US Court for helping plot the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks but escaped death penalty under a deal with the US government over which the judge had serious reservations.
“The sentence I impose, I’m hopeful it will keep Mr. Headley under lock and key for the rest of his natural life,” US District Judge Harry Leinenweber said.
The Judge said it would have been much easier to impose the death penalty. “That’s what you deserve”.
52-year-old Headley had entered into a plea bargain with the US investigators under which he escaped death sentence.
But many were left surprised when the US prosecutors did not seek life sentence for Headley. Headley was ordered to serve 35 years, followed by five years of supervised release by Leinenweber. There is no federal parole and defendants must serve at least 85 per cent of their sentence.
“Mr. Headley is a terrorist,” the Judge said while imposing the sentence on 12 counts in a packed court. Leinenweber also said, “He commits crime, cooperates and then gets rewarded for the cooperation.
“No matter what I do, it is not going to deter terrorists. Unfortunately, terrorists do not care for it. I do not have any faith in Mr Headley when he says that he is a changed person now.
“I do believe that it is my duty to protect the public from Mr Headley and ensure that he does not get into any further terrorist activities. Recommending 35 years is not a right sentence”.
Asked if he wanted to make a statement, Headley, said, “No your honour.”
In pleading guilty and later testifying for the government at the trial of co-defendant and school time friend Tahawwur Rana, Headley admitted that he attended training camps in Pakistan operated by Lashkar-e-Taiba, on five separate occasions between 2002 and 2005.
In late 2005, Headley received instructions from three members of Lashkar to travel to India to conduct surveillance, which he did five times leading up to the Mumbai attacks in 2008 that killed approximately 166 people, including six Americans, and wounded hundreds more.
Next: Possibility of Headley's extradition to India, says US attorney