New Delhi: Coming under increasing criticism from India for not awarding death penalty for 26/11 plotter David Headley, US Authorities defended on Friday that Headley hadn’t been awarded death penalty as he had ‘cooperated with the security agencies during the investigation process’.
“This decision was taken because of Headley's willingness to cooperate with law enforcement authorities -- American, Indian and others -- to help bring the perpetrators to justice and prevent other terrorist attacks," read a US embassy statement.
The statement is being viewed as veiled snubbing to India's requests to award death penalty to Headley, or end of hopes of he being 'extraditing' to India even in the future.
The statement comes on the heels of comments by Union External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid demanding death penalty and extradition of Headley for his role in Mumbai terror attacks.
Headley received a 35-year jail term ,sans parole appeal, on Thursday,
The embassy statement cited Headley’s favourable role in providing extensive information about various terrorism modules operating in different parts of the world including Lashkar-e-Toiba. It also disclosed Headley’s help in gaining information about wanted terrorist leader Illyas Kashmiri.
It also said that based on Headley’s revelations, co-conspirator in Mumbai terror attacks Tahawwur Rana could be convicted for his role and sentenced to a 14-year jail term.
Referring to the sentence without parole for Headley, the statement said: "It reflects both severe punishment for Headley's role in the heinous 26/11 crimes and a decision by the US Department of Justice not to seek the death penalty.
It said Headley provided information that was of substantial value "in our efforts to combat international terrorism and to save lives".
"Headley answered questions from Indian law enforcement.He Headley assisted US investigators in bringing criminal charges against five other terrorists," said the statement.
Stressing that the counter-terrorism cooperation between India and the US was "stronger than ever", it said the FBI had provided its expertise and testified in the Indian prosecution of Mumbai accused Ajmal Kasab.
It added that Headley's sentence marked another step in its efforts to bring to justice those responsible for the Mumbai attack.
"We are working together to see that those responsible for 26/11 and other acts of terrorism are brought to justice, wherever they may be," it said.
(with PTI inputs)