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Headley to plead guilty before US court

world Updated: Mar 17, 2010 13:40 IST

Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley, a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative charged with conspiring in the Mumbai terror strike, will plead guilty before a US court on Thursday, five months after he was arrested by the FBI.

A court notice said a "change of plea" hearing has been set for Thursday David Coleman Headley before US District Judge Harry Leinenweber. A routine status hearing was scheduled for Headley on March 23.

"Yes, he (Headley) will plead guilty," John Thesis, Headley's lawyer, told PTI when asked if his client is changing his not-guilty plea.

"I expect that is what is going to happen on March 18," Theis said. He, however, declined to comment on whether Headley
would be pleading guilty to all or some of the charges in the 12-count superseding indictment filed against him on January

49-year-old Headley is charged with conspiring in the Mumbai terror strike and planning attack on a Danish newspaper
which published a cartoon on Prophet Mohammad.

The son of a Pakistani diplomat and a Philadelphia socialite, Headley had so far pleaded not guilty to the charges and has remained in federal custody at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre here since he was arrested in October 2009.

Theis refused to give any details when asked whether a plea deal has been worked out for Headley, who has been "cooperating in the ongoing investigation".

If convicted, Headley faces maximum penalty of life imprisonment or death.

Theis said: "We have had discussions with the government regarding the plea bargain. We are working on it and we expect there will be a plea agreement." However, Headley's cooperation in the investigation is seen as a way to escape death penalty.

Spokesman for Chicago US Attorney Patrick J Fitzgerald, Randall Samborn said Headley would be present in court for the March 18 hearing.

Samborn too declined to comment on what charges Headley would be pleading guilty to.

In the 12 count indictment, Headley, a 49 year old Chicago resident, faces six counts of conspiracy involving bombing public places in India, murdering and maiming persons in India and Denmark, providing material support to foreign terrorist plots, providing material support to Lashkar and six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of US citizens in India.

The FBI had also charged Headley's friend from a Pakistani military school, city-businessman Tahawwur Hussain Rana with providing material support to the Mumbai attacks as well as to the terrorist organisation LeT.

Pakistani-Canadian Rana has pleaded not guilty to the charges and said that he was duped by Headley.

Rana has been denied bail by the court and is held at the Correctional centre since his October arrest. A hearing for his case has been set for March 29.

Headley was first arrested in 1998 for conspiring to smuggle heroin into the US from Pakistan. However, after his arrest he cooperated with the investigation, giving information about his involvement in drug trafficking and his Pakistani suppliers.

Due to his cooperation, he was sentenced to less than two years in prison and shortly thereafter went to Pakistan to conduct undercover surveillance operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

In 2002 and 2003, Headley allegedly attended terrorism training camps in Pakistan maintained by Lashkar and conspired with its members and others, including co-accused Rana, Ilyas Kashmiri and Abdur Rehman in planning and executing the attacks on India and a Danish newspaper.

He conducted extensive surveillance of targets in Mumbai between September 2006 and July 2008, taking photographs and making videotapes of various potential targets, including those attacked in the November 2008 attacks that killed approximately 164 people and left hundreds more injured.

After every trip to India, Headley allegedly travelled to Pakistan to share videos and photographs of the targets in India with Lashkar members.