A US citizen was sentenced on Thursday to 35 years in prison for the key role he played in a 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, leaving open the possibility that he one day could go free. Victims called the sentence unjust for the severity of the violence.
David Coleman Headley’s meticulous scouting missions facilitated the assault by 10 gunmen from a Pakistani-based militant group, which killed 160 people — including children.
The attackers arrived by boat on Nov. 26, 2008, carrying grenades and automatic weapons, and fanned out to hit multiple targets, including a crowded train station, a Jewish center and the landmark Taj Mahal Hotel. TV cameras captured much of the three-day rampage live.
The attack heightened the strain in a historically antagonistic relationship between India and Pakistan, which have fought three major wars. Indian officials accuse Pakistani intelligence of helping to plan the assault — an allegation Pakistan denies.
The maximum sentence Headley, 52, faced was life in prison. He agreed to cooperate with US authorities and plead guilty in 2010 to 12 counts to avoid what would have been his maximum sentence: death. He also secured a promise not to be extradited to India.
US District Judge Harry Leinenweber said he considered Headley’s cooperation with federal prosecutors in imposing a sentence within the range that prosecutors had requested, even though “the damage that was done was unfathomable.”
“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,” the judge said.
Headley, who did not address the court, showed no emotion when the sentence was announced.
Late year, India secretly hanged the lone surviving gunman, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab.