US District Judge Harry D Leinenweberwas reported to have ruled at Chicago on June 9,2011, that TahawurHussainRana, of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), was guilty of supporting the LET and plotting to bomb Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper which had published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005.
The Indian Government has expressed “disappointment” over Ranas acquittal on charges of plotting the Mumbai attacks and said it will soon take a decision on filing a charge sheet against him and his accomplice David Headley in an Indian court.
A 12-member jury reached a split verdict after two days of deliberations and ruled that Rana was not guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to the 26/11 Mumbai attacks which killed 166 people, including six Americans.
No date has been set for the sentencing. Ranac ould face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison on the two counts combined.
The Indian Government has expressed “disappointment” over Rana’s acquittal on charges of plotting the Mumbai attacks and said it will soon take a decision on filing a charge sheet against him and his accomplice David Headley in an Indian court.
Explaining the verdict, US Justice Department spokesman Randall Samborn said: “A Federal Court jury has convicted defendant Rana on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to the Denmark terrorism plot and one count of providing material support to LeT, and not guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to the Mumbai terrorist attacks.”
Rana’s lawyers have said they would appeal against the ruling as there was an “error” in the trial. US Attorney Patrick J Fitzgerald has said the acquittal of Rana, who was a co-accused in the Mumbai attacks with Headley,of charges that he was involved in the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai was disappointing.At the same time, he said they were “gratified” that the jury found Rana guilty of involvement in plotting a terror attack in Denmark and providing material support to LeT, designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organisation.
Since the six Pakistanis cited as co-accused along with Rana are in Pakistan, the evidence against them was not considered and referred to the jury, which was called upon only to give its opinion on the charges against Rana.
When asked what went wrong on the 26/11 charges, Fitzgerald said:
“We put our evidence forward and the jury found that we did not meet the burden (of proof) there. But they did find we made our burden proving material support to Lashkar and they found that we met our burden with regard to attack on Denmark.”
Rana had been cited as a co-accused in respect of two charges “Conspiracy to provide material support to Terrorism in India” and the planned attack in Denmark. In respect of the planned Denmark attack, Ilyas Kashmiri and Major Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed alias Pasha were also co-accused (in absentia). A supplementary indictment had been filed on April 25, 2011, against Sajid Mir, Abu Qahafa, MazharIqbal and Major Iqbal citing them as co-accused along with Rana in respect of the 26/11 strikes.
Since the six Pakistanis cited as co-accused along with Rana are in Pakistan, the evidence against them was not considered and referred to the jury, which was called upon only to give its opinion on the charges against Rana. Since Rana had not been found guilty of any involvement in the 26/11 terrorist strikes, the Justice Department is unlikely to move for any action against the six Pakistani nationals absconding in Pakistan, of whom Ilyas Kashmiri was reported to have been killed in a recent Drone strike. The Pakistanis cited in the indictments as the co-conspirators would be the beneficiaries of the acquittal of Rana in respect of the charges relating to the 26/11 terrorist strikes.
Since Rana has been found guilty of involvement in the plan to carry out a terrorist strike in Copenhagen, the US Justice Department can still press Pakistan for action against Ilyas (if his death is not confirmed) and Major AbdurRehmanHashim Syed alias Pasha, both of whom have been cited as co-accused along with Rana in respect of the Copenhagen plot. It remains to be seen whether the Justice Department will do so.
It is surprising that the jury found Rana not guilty of involvement in the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai”¦he had prior knowledge of the impending terrorist strikes”¦Headley had discussed these plans with Rana.
It is surprising that the jury found Rana not guilty of involvement in the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai. There was a wealth of circumstantial evidence to show that he had knowingly allowed Headley to pose as an employee of his Chicago-based immigration consultancy service for his visits to India to assist the LET in its plans, that he had prior knowledge of the impending terrorist strikes and that he had knowledge of the LET’s plans to carry out fresh strikes in 2009 including in the National Defence College in New Delhi. Headley had discussed these plans with Rana. 12.Moreover, Rana was totally in the picture about Headley’s contacts with the LET as well as Ilyas Kashmiri.
I am told US laws do not permit an appeal against an acquittal by the jury. This would leave the Government of India with only one option. Try to get Rana extradited to India to face trial before an Indian court on charges different from those for which he was tried in the US. Since Rana was not the beneficiary of any plea bargain, extradition should be possible if the US is prepared to co-operate.
Both Headley and Rana are equally important for the Indian and US investigators to reconstruct the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai, to identify the entire network set up by them in India and the US and neutralise the members of the network still remaining undetected and to unearth the future plans of the LET and the 313 Brigade. The National Investigation Agency of India and the FBI should set up a joint team of senior officers to collate and review all the evidence on record so far and get a complete picture of the conspiracy.
The details of the circumstantial evidence available against Rana in respect of the Mumbai as well as the Copenhagen cases are given in the Annexure.
Details of the evidence available against Rana
David Coleman Headley originally known as DaoodGilani and TahawwurHussainRana, members of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), operated in concert from Chicago. They were in personal, telephonic and E-mail contact with each other. They even took a drive in a car together on September 7, 2009, when they discussed their future operational plans in India and Denmark at the instance of the LET and the 313 Brigade headed by Ilyas Kashmiri .The LET had four future targets in India—-the Somnath temple, the National Defence College in New Delhi, and the film world and the Shiv Sena office in Mumbai. The 313 Brigade’s target was the Copenhagen office of the Danish newspaper, which published some cartoons of Prophet Mohammad in 2005.