Pakistani-American LeT terrorist David Headley, who "unquestionably contributed" to the Mumbai attacks that claimed 166 lives, is set to be sentenced by a court here tonight, with US government seeking a lighter 30-35 years' jail term for him as he provided "valuable" information about the militant outfit.
52-year-old Headley, who was arrested by the FBI in October 2009 at the Chicago airport on his way to Pakistan for meetings with top terrorist leaders including Illyas Kashmiri, had pleaded guilty to his role in the 26/11 attacks in 2008.
In its pre-sentencing memorandum, the US government has justified its decision to seek 30-35 years of imprisonment, which seems lighter considering the fact that prosecutors had sought 30 years of imprisonment for his childhood pal Tahawwur Rana for providing material support to
Arguing that Headley provided valuable information about terrorist outfits like LeT and their leaders, the US government notified the Chicago court of the agreement it had with Headley, under which they would neither seek death penalty nor extradite him to India, Pakistan or Denmark.
"While there is no question that his criminal conduct was deplorable, his decision to cooperate, and the uniquely significant value that cooperation has provided to the government's efforts to combat terrorism, support the government's recommendation," it said in its submission before the Chicago court on Tuesday through Gary S Shapiro, the Acting United States Attorney.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on US District Judge Harry D Leinenweber -- who last week sentenced Rana to 14 years of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release.
In the court, the judge had announced five years of supervised release, which according to court papers a day later was revised to three years.
The Chicago court yesterday issued a detailed advisory for the media covering the sentencing hearing of Headley, as a large number of national and international media persons swooped in to Chicago for the event.
Well aware that the journalists could be equipped with latest electronic gadgets ready to send the message on the social media, the advisory bans them from using any electronic devices inside the court room.
It also prohibits them from photographing, and video or audio recording of the proceedings.
In its pre-sentencing memorandum, the US government said said Headley, who "unquestionably contributed" to the Mumbai attacks, played an essential role in the planning of the horrific terrorist strikes, adding that his advance surveillance in India contributed to the deaths of innocent men, women and children.
"Undeterred by the shocking images of death and destruction that came out of Mumbai in November 2008, Headley travelled to Denmark less than two months later to advance a plan to commit another terrorist attack," Shapiro said.
"Headley not only worked at the direction of Lashkar-e- Taiba for years, but also with members of al-Qaeda. 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," the US attorney said.
The Pakistani-American's cooperation assisted the US Government in filing criminal charges against at least seven other individuals, including his handler Sajid Mir -- a senior Let militant who was one of the main architects of the Mumbai attacks and acted as one of the controllers providing directions to the 10 attackers, and his testimony helped secure the conviction of
Rana, the US attorney said.
"Headley cooperated with foreign law enforcement, answering questions without restriction from Indian law enforcement over the course of seven full days, and the government expects his cooperation to extend well into the future," the American government said.
In addition, it said, Headley provided extensive details about
Lashkar-e-Taiba, including its organisational structure, leadership and other members, recruiting methods, fundraising methods, training methods, planning of attacks and potential targets. He also provided extensive details about Ilyas Kashmiri and his network.