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26/11 case: Headley sentencing today, US seeks leniency

US prosecutors have sought a lenient sentence for David Coleman Headley, who scouted targets for LeT ahead of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead. Yashwant Raj reports. Who is Headley | Charges against Headley | The Mumbai mission

world Updated: Jan 24, 2013 02:31 IST
Yashwant Raj

US prosecutors have sought a lenient sentence for David Coleman Headley, who scouted targets for Lashkar-e-Taiba ahead of the 2008 Mumbai terror strike that left 166 people dead.

Though he faces life in prison for his role in the Mumbai carnage and a plot to attack a Danish newspaper, prosecutors Tuesday sought only 30-35 years in jail for the 52-year-old drug trafficker-turned-terrorist, citing “significant value of his cooperation”.

A federal Chicago court will on Thursday pronounce the sentence.

“The government submits that imposing a sentence of 30 to 35 years’ imprisonment strikes a fair and just balance…,” acting US attorney Gary S Shapiro told the court Tuesday.

Headley, whose role in 26/11 plot was described as “essential”, was never tried as he pleaded guilty to all charges in exchange for immunity from extradition and death penalty.

Son of a Pakistani diplomat and a Philadelphia socialite, Headley, whose American appearance and passport helped him ward off suspicion for a long time, visited Mumbai many times between 2006 and 2008 to scout the targets for his Lashkar and ISI handlers.

He was the one who chose the landing area where the 10 Pakistani terrorists sailed in undetected.

Who is Headley

Tahawwur Rana, a Canadian with business interests in Chicago who gave Headley the cover of his immigration business, was sentenced to 14 years by the same court last week. He was found guilty of providing material support to Lashkar and backing a plot to strike the Danish newspaper.

The prosecution had sought 30 years for Rana, the same as for Headley, despite latter's more critical role in the attacks.

Charges against Headley

Once an agent of the US drug enforcement administration, Headley was quick to part with information after he was arrested from the Chicago airport in November 2009.

On the directions of the authorities, he contacted several associates, helping investigators identify many members of Ilyas Kashmiri's outfit.

Headley was planning the attack on Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten, which had printed cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, with Kashmiri. Leader of a terrorist outfit called the 313 Brigade, Kashmiri often worked with al Qaeda. He is believed dead in a US drone attack in 2011.

Headley also helped the US bring charges against at least seven other people, including Rana, a school friend.