Headley could have been given harsher punishment: Khurshid

Last Updated: Fri, Jan 25, 2013 12:29 hrs

New Delhi: Not satisfied with the sentencing of David Headley in the US for his involvement in 2008 Mumbai terror attack, India on Friday said that the LeT terrorist could have been given 'harsher punishment' had he been tried here.

In his first reaction to the sentencing of the 52-year- old Pakistan-American terrorist, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said New Delhi is "disappointed" since "we wanted him to be tried here in India".

However, he added, that India has full faith in the US legal system.

"If the trial would have been held here, the punishment would have been tougher...We will still try and get him tried in India," Khurshid told reporters here.

He also said India will try and push for Headley's extradition.

"Since we are the ones who lost lives, this is why it would have been better if the trial was held here, but there is a legal system in the US, that we know, and we will still try and hope that he will be extradited," he said.

Headley was awarded 35 years imprisonment by a US court followed by five years of supervised release for his role in plotting the 26/11 Mumbai carnage.

India to push for Headley extradition

Ministers, the ruling Congress as well as the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the government should keep trying for the extradition of the Pakistani American who played a key role in the 26/11 attack.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said there was a law of land in the United States. "We know that. But we still hope and will try that such people should be brought here and tried".

"I can simply say that the fact that an American court has recognized the role of an accused in perpetrating the crime in India is actually a good beginning.

"At least a beginning has been made. We would continue to make efforts that all such people are brought back to India," Khurshid added.

Under a plea deal, US prosecutors "had agreed not to seek the death penalty against Headley and to not extradite him to Pakistan, India or Denmark for the offences to which he pleaded guilty", it was stated in the Chicago court.

The Pakistani American's 35-year sentence would be followed by five years of supervised release. There is no federal parole and defendants must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.

Home Secretary R.K. Singh said the plea deal was between Headley and the US government and that India would keep pressing for his extradition.

"Our request for extradition stands and we shall continue pressing for it all those people involved in the conspiracy to kill 165 people in Mumbai, all of them deserve death," Singh told reporters here.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari added that India's "right" for Headly's extradition was "non-negotiable".

"Our right to extradite Headley is for the simple reason that he has been accused of masterminding perhaps the most heinous terrorist outrage in recent Indian history. He needs to be tried in accordance to Indian laws, it is something which is non-negotiable," Tewari told reporters.

The ruling Congress also added its voice to the debate.

"We wanted Headley to be brought back to India. He should have been punished here, the land where he committed his crimes and we are disappointed that America refused to extradite him," Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi told reporters.

Said his colleague Digvijaya Singh: "The Indian government should keep trying to extradite him."

The BJP agreed and said the sentence handed over to Headley was a "partial judgment" and he should be brought to India to face trial.

"The 35 years imprisonment handed down to Headley is perhaps for the death of six Americans killed on Indian soil. Over 145 people were brutally massacred in Mumbai, what about them?" BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.

"The conviction has to take place in India. The US judgement is a partial judgement. It is a judgement based on US laws for US citizens, who were killed in India.

"BJP wants justice for all those who were killed in India. It is only possible when Headley is brought to India to be tried by our courts," Rudy said.

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