Pakistani-American Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorist David Headley was on Thursday sentenced to 35 years in jail by a US court for his ‘unquestionable’ role in the massacre of 166 people in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Giving his order, US District Judge Harry D Leinenweber 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. I will accept the government motion of 35 years and sentence of 35 years and supervised release for life.”
A week back, Judge Leinenweber had sentenced 52-year-old Headley’s school-time friend, Tahawwur Rana, for 14 years of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release for providing material support to LeT and planning terrorist attack against a Danish newspaper in Copenhagen. Under a plea bargain, death sentence for Headley was already knocked down. But many were left surprised when the US prosecutors did not seek life sentence for Headley.
Headley was sentenced on 12 counts. Those included conspiracy to aid the Pakistani group LeT, which mounted the attacks on the landmark Taj Mahal Hotel and other targets.
Headley and Rana were arrested in 2009. Headley was a small-time narcotics dealer who turned US’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) informer who went rogue.
In their closing argument, US attorneys Daniel J Collins and Sarah E Streicker had sought between 30 and 35 years of imprisonment for Headley. His attorneys, Robert David Seeder and John Thomas, had sought a lighter sentence arguing the amount of information he provided to the US government against terrorist organisations like LeT and several of its leaders.