A US Judge has sentenced American David Headley, who helped plot the 2008 Mumbai attack before agreeing to become an informer, to 35 years in prison. Headley made a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty.
Headley, 52, was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty to 12 charges during his trial, including to scoping out Mumbai on behalf of Pakastani militants and to a second plot to attack a Danish newspaper over cartoons disparaging the Prophet Muhammad.
"The sentence I impose, I'm hopeful it will keep Mr. Headley under lock and key for the rest of his natural life," Judge Harry Leinenweber said.
In November 2008, heavily armed militants stormed through Mumbai, killing 166 people and wounding hundreds more over almost three days of prolonged fighting.
Headley was arrested in 2009 and entered his plea in 2010. He cooperated with US investigators and foreign intelligence agencies to avoid the death penalty and extradition to India, Pakistan or Denmark, and agreed to testify in foreign judicial proceedings, the government said.
Leinenweber said imposing the death penalty on Headley would have been much easier, adding: "That's what you deserve." The judge instead gave him 35 years after a motion by the government, saying "it was not a light sentence."
US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald had urged for leniency, telling Leinenweber that Headley's decision to become an informant "saved lives."
The Washington-born son of a former Pakistani diplomat and American woman, Headley spent two years in Mumbai scouting potential locations for the attackers. Prosecutors described it as a supporting but "essential" role, saying he was committed to the cause of terrorism.
Headley changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006 to more easily travel to and from India. He spent some seven years working with militant groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, who India blames for the Mumbai attacks.
The ruling comes a week after Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 52, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for letting Headley use his Chicago-based immigration firm as a cover while working on a plot to attack Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
dr/mkg (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)