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Chicago terror suspect pleads not guilty

A Chicago man pleads not guilty Wednesday to charges that he conspired in the November 2008 terrorist attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai that left 166 people dead.
Image: David Coleman Headley, Harry Leinenweber
In this courtroom drawing, David Coleman Headley, left, pleads not guilty before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber on Wednesday to charges that accuse him of conspiring in the deadly 2008 terrorist attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai and of planning to launch an armed assault on a Danish newspaper. Verna Sadock / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that he conspired in the November 2008 terrorist attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai that left 166 people dead.

At an arraignment that lasted about three minutes, 49-year-old David Coleman Headley pleaded not guilty to all 12 counts against him, including charges that he also planned a terrorist attack on a Danish newspaper. He could get the death penalty if convicted of the most serious charge.

Headley told U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber that he understood the charges and was waiving any indictment in the case. He was charged Monday in a legal document called a criminal information, which typically signals a plea deal.

After entering his plea, Headley was led away by a phalanx of marshals.

Headley is accused of making five trips to Mumbai and conducting surveillance on the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, a landmark called Nariman House and a large train station, all of which were struck by terrorists.

Prosecutors say he answered to the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, whose operations are mainly focused on the long-running friction between Pakistan and India over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Grew up in the U.S. and Pakistan
Headley grew up both in the United States and Pakistan, the son of an American mother and a Pakistani father.

Authorities in Washington say Headley is cooperating with the government. But his attorneys, John Theis and Robert Seeder, told reporters after the hearing that they would not comment on a possible defense strategy.

"We will not be adding anything to what the government has said," Theis said. He said the defense would review the evidence but would not comment on the substance of the case.

Leinenweber gave prosecutors until Jan. 8 to turn over key evidence to the defense attorneys. He set a status hearing for Jan. 12.

Headley was arrested by FBI agents at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Oct. 3 as he was about to board a plane for Philadelphia. The government says he was believed to be headed to Pakistan afterward to confer with collaborators.

Two other men have been charged in the case.

Chicago businessman Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 48, a Pakistani-born Canadian national, is charged with providing material support to terrorists in the planned attack on the Danish newspaper. The paper, Jyllands-Posten, published a dozen cartoons in 2005 that depicted the Prophet Muhammad and set off protests in the Muslim world.

Prosecutors say Rana, the owner of an immigration service, made travel arrangements for Headley as he moved around the world to plan the Denmark attack. Rana and Headley were once schoolmates.

A retired major in the Pakistani military, Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, is charged separately with coordinating surveillance on the Danish newspaper. His whereabouts are uncertain.