Chicago: It is unlikely that Mumbai terror plotter David Coleman Headley will be formally sentenced until early next year considering his cooperation is required in the prosecution of three other suspects in related cases, informed sources here say.
Although a team of Indian investigators completed their week-long interrogation of Headley last week, his agreement with the prosecutors requires him to cooperate in relation to the cases involving Pakistani Canadian physician turned businessman, Dr Tahawwur Hussain Rana, and two others.
Rana`s case is scheduled to begin Nov 1. Rana has also been indicted for his alleged role in helping facilitate Headley`s travels to India to scout for potential terror targets.
The other two suspects are Ilyas Kashmiri, an allegedly influential terrorist leader in Pakistan suspected of links with leaders of the Al Qaeda, and Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed (Abdur Rehman), a retired major in the Pakistani military. Both have been charged in two conspiracy counts related to a plot to attack a Danish newspaper that carried a cartoon seen as disparaging of the Prophet Mohammad. Kashmiri and Syed have not been arrested yet.
Unless all of this investigation has reached a satisfactory conclusion, Headley cannot be handed a formal sentence, although he remains incarcerated at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago. Under US law, his stay in custody will be counted as part of the time served from whatever the eventual quantum of sentence he is given.
While Indian investigators drawn from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) were granted what the Department of Justice characterised as access without any restrictions, it is not clear whether there will be any more sessions with Headley in the future.
Headley`s attorney John Theis told reporters he was in no position to make any comment and referred to the short formal statement issued by the Department of Justice last week. That statement said: "To protect the confidentiality of the investigations being conducted by both India and the United States, both countries have agreed not to disclose the contents of the interviews."
Short of deliberate leaks from either the US side or the Indian side it is not likely to be known exactly what it is that the Indian team gathered from Headley and whether it helped New Delhi deepen its understanding of the all the intricacies of the Mumbai plot.
Of particular interest to New Delhi would have been Headley`s links with the Lashkar-e-Taiba but it is unknown how much of his insights, if anything at all, he shared. Given that one of the Lashkar`s stated objectives has been to hive off Kashmir from India, any actionable intelligence from Headley would have been useful.
Attempts to ascertain the reasons behind complete secrecy over the contents of Headley`s questioning by the Indian team produced nothing more than no comment from all of the parties involved. Headley is likely to remain out of bounds for the media for the foreseeable future. When asked what the chances of IANS getting any access to Headley directly were, Theis could not help laughing and said: "You can certainly say you tried."