Even as the U.S. seemed to be readying itself to let prime accused in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks case off with a prison sentence of no more than 35 years, government lawyers reiterated that as per the plea bargain granted to him, there would be no question of extraditing him to India.
Touching on this subject in a 20-page position paper — in possession of The Hindu — Chicago-based U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro said Headley had cooperated by answering questions “without restriction from Indian law enforcement over the course of seven full days, and the expects his cooperation to extend well into the future”.
Further, during his trial in 2011 Headley explained to authorities, in unprecedented detail, the close ties between the ISI and terror outfits such as LeT, which was behind the commando-style attacks that killed 166 people, Headley also confessed to a man named ‘Major Iqbal’ having sent him on reconnaissance missions to potential targets in Mumbai.
In not pressing for maximum sentence, attorneys argued that the information Headley had provided was of substantial value in terms of insights into the personnel, structure, methods, abilities and plans of LeT; that Headley assisted in investigations on other terrorists — leading to the filing of criminal charges against at least seven individuals; and that his testimony helped secure the conviction of Rana.
In addition to Rana and ‘Major Iqbal’, Headley’s confessional statements were said to have helped in investigating and bringing criminal charges against numerous other operatives including Sajid Mir, an LeT leader said to be Headley’s handler; Abu Qahafa, who is suspected to have trained and equipped the attackers; Mazhar Iqbal, another LeT controller; Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, a retired Pakistani military officer linked to LeT; and Ilyas Kashmiri, leader of Harkat ul Jihad al Islami (HUJI), a terrorist group that has executed attacks against India and also works with al-Qaeda.
However, the prosecution appeared to admit that in permitting anything less than a life imprisonment sentence for Headley, it was deviating from its own guidelines on the matter.
Among multiple references explaining the leniency of the sentence demanded, the U.S. attorneys’ report said, “There is little question that life imprisonment would be an appropriate punishment for Headley’s incredibly serious crimes but for the significant value provided by his immediate and extensive cooperation.”