India to continue to press for Headley extradition

New Delhi, Jan 25 (IANS) India said Friday that it would continue to press for the extradition of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative David Headley, sentenced by a US court to 35 years in prison for his role in the 26/11 terror attacks, and would have sought more punishment had he been tried here.

A day after the Chicago court ruling, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said: "Had we tried him we would have sought much more."

"We are a little disappointed as we wanted that he should have been brought here and tried as the real loss has been of India. It would have been appropriate if he would have been tried here," Khurshid told reporters here.

The minister said there was a law of land in United States. "We know that. But we still hope and will try that such people should be brought here and tried".

He said there was a little disappointment over the quantum of sentence, "but we know that the judge has said clearly that the sentence has been given as there was a provision in their law that he cannot be extradited".

"I can simply say that the fact that an American court has recognized the role of an accused in perpetrating the crime in India is actually a good beginning. At least a beginning has been made. We would continue to make efforts that all such people are brought back to India," Khurshid added.

Under a plea deal, US prosecutors "had agreed not to seek the death penalty against Headley and to not extradite him to Pakistan, India or Denmark for the offences to which he pleaded guilty", it was stated in the Chicago court.

The Pakistani American'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.

Home Secretary R.K. Singh said that the plea deal was between Headley and the US government and that India would keep pressing for his extradition.

"Our request for extradition stands and we shall continue pressing for it all those people involved in the conspiracy to kill 165 people in Mumbai, all of them deserve death," Singh told reporters here.

The ruling Congress also added its voice to the debate.

"We wanted Headley to be brought back to India. He should have been punished here, the land where he committed his crimes and we are disappointed that America refused to extradite him," Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi told reporters here.

--Indo-Asian New Service

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