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Because he did not deserve mercy!

After Ajmal Amir Kasab, the face of the horrific 2008 Mumbai attack, was hanged in India and Pakistani-Canadian citizen Tahawwur Rana got 14 years in jail for providing material support to Pakistan-based LeT, it is now the turn of one of the plotters, 52-year-old David Headley to face the consequences of his act. A US federal court on Thursday sentenced Headley to 35 years in prison for his role in the 26/11 attack on Mumbai and a second plot to attack a Danish newspaper that had sparked outrage by its publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Headley, born as Daood Gilani to a Pakistani father and an American mother, had faced up to a life in prison with no chance of parole. But prosecuters in the US advocated a more lenient jail term because of Headley’s ‘significant’ cooperation. India has expressed disappointment at Headley’s lenient sentence and understandaly so. The government has reportedly demanded death for Headley. Union Home Secretary R K Singh has expressed his desire for a death sentence for the terrrorist and external affairs minister Salman Khurshid has called the 35-year term a ‘beginning’ and said that India’s demand for Headley’s extradition remains intact.

While India is definitely not a country that takes joy in awarding death penalty – it is only reserved for a crime that can be called the rarest of rare – Headley’s cold blooded plan to attack a city and kill innocent people in the deluded name of faith, surely deserves capital punishment. Or at least isolation for life. Prosecuters in the US might argue that Headley’s cooperation in investigations shows a change of heart, but who knows if it is not a ploy to ensure a lighter punishment.

People like Headley deserve the severest punishment not just to ensure justice for the family and friends of those who lost their lives because of them, but for the more serious potential damage that they might do when let off. At 52, Headley has a definite chance of coming out alive from prison – he will be 87 after 35 years – old yes, but no one can guarantee whether he will be a better man.

As has been written in this column before, no religion preaches killing of innocents to propagate itself and fundamentalists who perpetrate crimes in the name of religion, race or class, can only be called mentally unsound. It is important to isolate such people from the society so that they are not able to use faith, emotions or financial powers to expand their following.
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