New Delhi, Jan. 25 (PTI): India today expressed disappointment over David Coleman Headley not getting a sentence “harsher” than the 35 years over the Mumbai attacks but vowed to keep pursuing his extradition.
Foreign minister Salman Khurshid said he was “disappointed” at the Chicago court’s verdict yesterday and said the Pakistani-American Lashkar operative who scouted the 26/11 targets would have got the “severest sentence” in India.
“If the trial would have been held here, the punishment would have been tougher... but we will still try and get him tried in India.” He termed the sentence a “beginning” while declaring “full faith” in the US legal system. “There are legal procedures in the US but nevertheless the position we have, the request (extradition) we have made remains intact.”
Union home secretary R.K. Singh echoed the views on the punishment, saying Headley and all those who were involved in the 2008 strike in which 166 people were killed should get the death penalty. “We want the death sentence for Headley.”
But the US justified the decision against seeking death penalty for Headley, citing his willingness to co-operate with the authorities to help bring the perpetrators to justice and help prevent other terror strikes.
The US embassy here issued a statement saying “the sentence reflects both severe punishment for Headley’s role in the heinous 26/11 crimes and a decision by the US department of justice not to seek the death penalty”.
Headley provided information of substantial value in the US’s efforts to combat international terror and save lives, apart from testifying against co-conspirator Tahawwur Rana, now serving a 14-year sentence, the embassy said.
Others felt the US verdict could be used to step up pressure on Pakistan to nail its 26/11 suspects.
Ujjwal Nikam, special public prosecutor in the 26/11 case, urged Pakistan to make Headley an approver in the trial of the suspects. “Pakistan has been saying it does not have evidence. Therefore, it should make Headley an accused in their case and turn him an approver so he can provide the evidence they need.”