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Federal judge sentences US citizen to 35 years for role in Mumbai terror attack

Judge Harry Leinenweber of the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois [official website] on Thursday issued a 35-year prison sentence [DOJ press release] to David Coleman Headley for his role in the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, India [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Headley, a US citizen of Pakistani descent, facilitated the attack [AP report] by conducting scouting missions in Mumbai for the Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) [CFR backgrounder], which eventually carried out the attack. In handing down the sentence, Leinenweber noted that while life imprisonment would have been appropriate for Headley, his cooperation with prosecutors in the case against Tahawwur Rana—convicted of providing material support to the Denmark terror plot and to LeT—ultimately resulted in a lesser sentence.

Headley's sentence is the latest development in the attempt to bring those responsible for the Mumbai attack to justice. In November India executed the sole surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Mohammad Ajmal Kasab [WSJ backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. On the day before Kasab's execution the Indian Supreme Court criticized the application of the "rarest of rare" standard [judgement, PDF], which provides that the death penalty should be imposed only when the offense is "of an exceptionally depraved and heinous character and constitutes, on account of its design and and the manner of its execution, a source of grave danger to the society at large." Nonetheless, the Indian Supreme Court upheld Kasab's sentence [JURIST report]. In 2009, Pakistan charged [JURIST report] seven men accused of plotting the attack under Pakistan's Anti-Terrorism Act [text].

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