January 27, 2010 / 3:49 PM / 10 years ago

American pleads not guilty in Mumbai attack case

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An American pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to U.S. charges that he scouted targets for a militant Pakistani group blamed for the attack on Mumbai in 2008 that killed more than 160 people.

David Headley, 49, appeared calm in answering questions from a judge during the brief hearing in federal court to arraign him on a dozen charges, some of which carry the death penalty.

Headley has been cooperating with U.S. investigators since his arrest in October, according to court documents.

Asked about his client’s apparent confident demeanour, lawyer John Theis told reporters Headley was well aware of the severity of the charges and was actively participating in his own defence.

In court documents, prosecutors have laid out details of Headley’s surveillance in India on behalf of Lashkar-e-Taiba and another militant group in planning the Mumbai attack and details of another plot against a Danish newspaper.

Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten newspaper published cartoons in 2005 depicting the Prophet Mohammad that offended many Muslims, prompting protests and threats against the paper and the cartoonist.

Headley was also angered by the cartoons and sought revenge, according to court documents.

MUMBAI ASSAULT

Lashkar has been blamed for the Mumbai attack that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

The group has previously been associated with the dispute over Kashmir, a region split between India and Pakistan, but has a large network of support among Pakistanis around the world, raising fears it could attack Western targets.

India has refused to resume peace talks with Pakistan and sought to bring international pressure on Islamabad to act against militants operating from its soil, including Lashkar.

Pakistan is also under pressure from the United States, which wants it to root out Taliban fighters to help put down the insurgency in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Headley, who was born in the United States but spent several years in Pakistan, has previously pleaded not guilty to similar charges.

According to court documents, Headley travelled to Mumbai five times between September 2006 and July 2008, taking photographs and video of some places hit in the attacks and the port where the attackers landed by boat. He then turned over the results of his surveillance to his contacts in Pakistan.

His accused co-conspirator, 49-year-old Pakistani-born Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana, entered a not-guilty plea on Monday to charges he provided material support to the plots and to Lashkar.

Two Pakistanis have also been charged in the newspaper plot but are not in U.S. custody.

Editing by Philip Barbara

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