India to continue to press for Headley's extradition

New Delhi, Jan 25 (IANS) India said Friday that it will 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 Mumbai attack, and would have liked harsher punishment.

Ministers, the ruling Congress as well as the opposition BJP said the government should keep trying for the extradition of the Pakistani-American who played a key role in the 26/11 attack.

A day after a Chicago court's 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 the law of land in the US. "We know that, but we still hope and will try that such people should be brought here and tried," he said.

"We would have liked a severer sentence. We would have liked the accused to be tried in India. But at least a beginning has been made. We will continue our efforts to ensure that all such people are extradited and brought to India for trial," Khurshid said.

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 Headley pleaded guilty", it was stated in the Chicago court.

Khurshid 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".

Headley's 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.

Asked about Headley's accomplice Tahawwur Rana, whom India wants to stand trial here, Khurshid said the government was watching his case closely.

"The same thing continues. There is little difference between the two cases because in this case he (Headley) had given up his right of appeal. In the other case (Rana's), the right of appeal has not been given up. So, we continue to watch these cases very closely, and such legal intervention as we can make at any time we will continue to do so," Khurshid told reporters.

Home Secretary R.K. Singh said 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 166 people in Mumbai, all of them deserve death," Singh told reporters here.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari added that India's "right" for Headly's extradition was "non-negotiable".

He said Headley had been accused of masterminding the most heinous terrorist outrage in recent Indian history. "He needs to be tried in accordance to Indian laws, it is something which is non-negotiable," Tewari told reporters.

Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said the party 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."

Party leader Digvijaya Singh said: "The Indian government should keep trying to extradite him."

The BJP also said the sentence handed over to Headley was a "partial judgement" and he should be brought to India to face trial.

"The 35-year imprisonment handed down to Headley is perhaps for the death of six Americans killed on Indian soil (in 26/11). Over 145 people were brutally massacred in Mumbai. What about them?" BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.

Describing the US judgement as partial, he said it was based on US laws for US citizens, who were killed in India.

"The BJP wants justice for all those who were killed in India. It is only possible when Headley is brought to India to be tried by our courts," Rudy said.

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