Chicago: Even as a US judge sentenced David Headley to 35 years in prison for his role in the Lashkar-e-Taeba led 2008 Mumbai terror attack, he said the admitted Pakistani-American terrorist deserved the death penalty.
“Mr Headley is a terrorist,” US District Judge Harry Leinenweber said as he Thursday imposed a relatively lighter sentence on the Washington born son of a Pakistani diplomat and an American mother.
It would have been much easier to impose the death penalty, he said. “That’s what you deserve,” the judge told Headley, 52, who had changed his given name of Daood Gilani to scout targets in Mumbai without arousing suspicion.
However, under a plea deal, US prosecutors “had agreed not to seek the death penalty against him and to not extradite him to Pakistan, India or Denmark for the offences to which he pleaded guilty.”
“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,” Leinenweber said.
“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,” the judge said.
“Recommending 35 years is not a right sentence,” Leinenweber said. But “The sentence I impose, I’m hopeful it will keep Mr Headley under lock and key for the rest of his natural life.”
Headley’s 35 year sentence would be followed by five years of supervised release. There is no federal parole and defendants must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.
In pleading guilty and later testifying at the trial of his friend Tahawwur Hussain Rana, Headley admitted that he attended LeT operated training camps in Pakistan on five separate occasions between 2002 and 2005, prosecutors said.
In late 2005, Headley received instructions from three members of Lashkar to travel to India to conduct surveillance, which he did five times between September 2006 and July 2008 during which he made videotapes of various potential targets.
Before each trip, Lashkar members and associates instructed Headley regarding specific locations where he was to conduct surveillance.
After each trip, Headley travelled to Pakistan to meet with Lashkar members and associates, report on the results of his surveillance, and provide the surveillance videos.
Before the April 2008 surveillance trip, Headley and co-conspirators in Pakistan discussed potential landing sites in Mumbai for a team of attackers who would arrive by sea.
Headley returned to Mumbai with a global positioning system device and took boat trips around the Mumbai harbour and entered various locations into the device.
Between Nov 26 and 28, 2008, 10 attackers trained by Lashkar carried out multiple assaults with firearms, grenades and improvised explosive devices against multiple targets in Mumbai
These included the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, the Leopold Cafe, the Chabad House and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station, each of which Headley had scouted in advance, prosecutors said.
In March 2009, Headley made a sixth trip to India to conduct additional surveillance, including of the National Defence College in Delhi, and of Chabad Houses in several cities.