‘Headley deserves harsher punishment, but his sentencing is a good beginning’

Denied extradition of Pakistani-American David Headley, India seems to be hoping to get his accomplice Tahawwur Rana to stand trial in the country for his alleged involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

“There is a little difference between the two cases [Headley and Rana], because in this case he had given up his right of appeal; in the other case, 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,” External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said here on Friday.

The fact that an American court had recognised the role of an accused in perpetrating the crime in India was “at least a good beginning.” India would have preferred a severer sentence [the death penalty]. “But at least a beginning has been made. We will continue our efforts to ensure that all such people are extradited… to India for trial.”

Had the trial been held in India, the punishment would have been harsher. “We are disappointed with the quantum of punishment meted out to him. We also know that their judge made it very clear that his punishment is based on Headley’s right to make a plea for lighter punishment and a plea against extradition as per the provisions in their legal system. But we will continue to make efforts to fulfil our aspirations.”

On the other hand, the U.S. Embassy here justified the Justice Department’s stand against a severer punishment to Headley. “This decision was taken because of Headley’s willingness to cooperate with law enforcement authorities — American, Indian and others — to help bring the perpetrators to justice and prevent other terrorist attacks,” it said in a statement.

The statement listed five reasons: he testified against Rana, now serving a 14-year sentence in a federal prison; provided extensive details of accused terrorist leader Ilyas Kashmiri, and his network; answered questions from the Indian law enforcement authorities; assisted U.S. investigators in bringing criminal charges against five other terrorists; and provided U.S. law enforcement officers with extensive details of the structure, personnel, methods, abilities and plans of terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba.

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