Scout for 2008 Mumbai attackers gets 35 years in jail

David Headley received a reduced sentence for co-operating with prosecutors

David Headley, the Pakistani-American who played a key role scouting terrain for the terrorists behind the 2008 Mumbai terror rampage, was sent to prison for 35 years, a reduced sentence that recognised his co-operation with prosecutors.

Addressing a packed Chicago courtroom, the US District Judge Harry Leinenweber, noted he had recently received a letter from Headley, 52, who had previously entered guilty pleas to 12 different charges. In the letter, Headley expressed remorse for his role in the Mumbai attacks but the judge said he had trouble believing the sentiments. “I don’t have any faith in Mr Headley when he says he’s a changed person and believes in the American way of life,” he said.

Born to a Pakistani father and an American mother, Headley changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006 and then travelled to Mumbai where he spent months conducting reconnaissance for the al-Qa’ida linked Pakistani militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba. He chose locations for the attacks which happened in November 2008, including the renowned Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. He spent some of that time at sea in the city’s harbour identifying landing points for the terror team, which arrived by boat.

Prosecutors had asked for 35 years because of the assistance received from Headley from the moment of his arrest while he was boarding a plane overseas at Chicago airport. In addition to giving background on the Mumbai attacks which left 166 people dead, he also described a never-carried-out plot to attack on a Danish newspaper that had published a cartoon image of Mohamed. Headley testified against Tahawwur Rana, a Chicago businessman convicted last week of aiding Lashkar in the aborted Denmark plot. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

For his co-operation, Headley ensured he would not be extradited to India and would not face the death penalty in the US. That he may one day walk free again will not sit well with everyone, however.

“I and victims’ families think he should spend the life in prison,” said James Kreindler, a lawyer for the families of American victims. “Thirty-five years will upset some people... but if that sentence means you got good information out of him... and he gets out with a few years to live, some can tolerate it.”

Chicago prosecutors acknowledged that setting the right prison time was hard. “Determining the appropriate sentence for David Headley requires consideration of uniquely aggravating and uniquely mitigating factors,” they said before the judge’s ruling.

“What he did was unfathomable,” Mr Kreindler added. “Imagine what is going through a person’s mind who is video-taping these places knowing what will happen there later.”

After coming ashore, the 10 Lashkar militants fanned across Mumbai before unleashing murderous havoc at a series of busy targets, including a packed railway station. The Indian government hanged the only gunman who survived the operation in a secret execution at the end of November last year.

The sentencing and the hanging of the last terrorist were both painful reminders of an event that horrified all of India and served to exacerbate bilateral strains with Pakistan.

“No matter what I do it is not going to deter terrorists,” Judge Leinenweber said, adding: “I do believe that it is my duty to protect the public from Headley and ensure that he does not get into any further terrorist activities.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower