NEW DELHI: David Headley, who played a key role in the deadly 2008 Mumbai terror attack, escaped the electric chair because he plea-bargained, agreeing to testify against the plotters to avoid the death penalty.
Reacting to Headley being sentenced to 35 years in a US jail, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said that if the terrorist would have been tried in India, he would have been awarded a longer jail term for the 26/11 Mumbai attack.
The attacks resulted in the death of more than 160 people, including six Americans. Headley, a 52-year-old US citizen of Pakistani descent, admitted videotaping sites that were targeted by the Mumbai attackers.
Khurshid expressed disappointment over India not been allowed to conduct Headley's trial despite him being the co-conspirator in the 2008 Mumbai carnage.
He said: "Our request and demand were that we try him in our own country and I think that, possibly, it would have been more serious and severe sentencing."
Khurshid added that the verdict indicates that militancy would not be tolerated.
"We understand there are legal procedures in the United States of America, but nevertheless the position that we have and the request that we made remain intact. At the same time it is a beginning that has been made and going by what the judge has said this should go a long way in conveying a very clear message that the kind of things that have been happening in the past will not be tolerated henceforth."
Headley was arrested in 2009 and pleaded guilty to 12 charges, including conspiracy to bomb places of public use and commit murder and plotting an attack on a Danish newspaper.
After entering his plea in 2010, Headley cooperated with US investigators and foreign intelligence agencies to avoid the death penalty and extradition to India, Pakistan or Denmark, agreeing to testify in foreign judicial proceedings, the government said.
Headley deserved the death penalty: US judge
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 the right sentence," Leinenweber said. But "the sentence I impose, I'm hopeful will keep Mr Headley under lock and key for the rest of his natural life." (Agencies)