David Coleman Headley, a 52-year-old Pakistani-American, has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for his part in the 2008 terror attacks across Mumbai, India.
Headley could have faced a life sentence or the death penalty but the leniency of the court was due to his co-operation with investigators. Arrested in 2009 he immediately came clean.
His cooperation revealed vital intelligence about the Pakistan-based terror network at the heart of the attacks. Prosecutors, in pushing for a more lenient sentence, hope that future suspected terrorists will also co-operate.
The Indian authorities and victims of the attacks, however, expressed their disappointment at the sentence. Headley could be back on the streets eventually but, even with good behavior, not before he is 80 years of age.
Headley carried out reconnaissance enabling the Mumbai attackers to carry out their mission. On various scouting missions Headley gathered information. This enabled the attackers to plan their terror mission well.
High profile locations were hit in Mumbai, a city widely acknowledged as the financial capital of India. The terrorists attacked two major hotels, the Taj Mahal Palace and the Oberoi Trident, resulting in a siege. Explosions and gunfire rocked the city.
The terrorists launched their attacks on Nov. 26, and they lasted until Nov. 29, 2008.
A series of attacks killed 164 people, including children. Hundreds sustained injuries. In court for the sentencing Headley faced some of the victims.
Linda Ragsdale, a 53-year-old Tennessee children's author was visibly angry as she shouted at close range to Headley. Shot through her back, the bullet passed along her spine and then out of her thigh. Ragsdale was in a hotel restaurant when gunmen burst in. As they fired randomly at the diners people dived for cover. "I know the sweet sickening smell of gunfire and blood. I know what a bullet can do to every part of the human body ... These are things I never needed to know, never needed to experience."
In passing sentence the judge made it clear that he disapproved the lenient sentence. Judge Harry Leinenweber said the Mumbai assault was so unfathomable and terrifying that, "perhaps the lucky ones were the ones who didn't survive. I don't have any faith in Mr. Headley when he says he's a changed person and believes in the American way of life."
Headley was born Daood Gilani. His father a Pakistani and his mother American. In 2006 he changed his name. The name change enabled him to move more freely to India.
Sky News reports that in 2012 India secretly hanged the lone surviving Mumbai gunman, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab.
A dreadful terror attack. One likened to 9/11 by the Indian authorities. It caused terror in a busy city. It damaged the city's reputation for tourism. Many families were left broken.
Was 35 years in jail an appropriate sentence, or in trying to ensure that other suspected terrorists speak out? Or have the authorities set a deadly precedent?
Will the sentence deter a would-be-terrorist aged 25? Would the court have been as lenient with a younger man?