New Delhi: India on January 25, expressed "disappointment" over the 35-year jail term for Lashkar-e-Toiba operative David Coleman Headley, and said it would continue to press for the extradition of both the 52-year-old plotter of the 26/11 attacks and his Pakistani-Canadian accomplice Tahawwur Hussain Rana.
Besides the Mumbai attack, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is also probing Headley's role in carrying out reconnaissance for planned terrorist attacks on the National Defense College in Delhi and in Pushkar in Rajasthan, which he did on visits to India made after the November 2008 attacks.
The US, meantime, defends 35-year jail term to Headley saying the 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.
Besides assisting US investigators in bringing criminal charges against five other terrorists, Headley had provided authorities with details about the structure, personnel, methods, abilities and plans of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the US said.
But the External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said that Headley would have got "harsher punishment" had he been tried in India, and added that New Delhi was "disappointed."
"If the trial had been held here, the punishment would have been tougher... The US legal system had no provision to extradite him, but we will still try and get him tried in India," Khurshid said. "The 35-year sentencing and what the judge said is a beginning. We understand there are legal procedures in the US, but neverthless, the position we have, the request (for extradition) that we have made remains intact," he added.
Union Home Secretary R K Singh said, "We want death sentence for Headley and those who were involved in the Mumbai attack. We will keep asking for his death sentence. Headley was involved not only in the Mumbai conspiracy, but he also carried out recce in other places. Our request for his extradition stands."
BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said his party would "accept nothing short of extradition", and that "no Indian can settle for less than death sentence for Headley".