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Man Who Backed Mumbai Terror Group Gets 14 Years

CHICAGO  (AP) — A Chicago businessman was sentenced to 14 years in prison Thursday for  providing material support to overseas terrorism, including a Pakistani group  whose 2008 attacks on Mumbai, India, left more than 160 people dead.

The  judge sentenced Tahawwur Rana in U.S. District Court in Chicago to the prison  term followed by five years of supervised release.

The  Pakistani-born Canadian declined to address the judge prior to sentencing. Rana,  52, faced a maximum 30 years in prison.

FILE – In this June 7, 2011 file courtroom sketch, Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana, left, appears in federal court in Chicago. Rana is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday, Jan 17, 2013, in Chicago for backing terrorism in Denmark and supporting a Pakistani terrorist group that staged deadly attacks on Mumbai, India, in 2008.

Jurors  in 2011 convicted Rana of providing support for the Pakistani group,  Lashkar-e-Taiba, and for supporting a never-carried-out plot to attack a Danish  newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet  Muhammad in 2005. The cartoons angered many Muslims because pictures of the  prophet are prohibited in Islam.

But  jurors cleared Rana of the third and most serious charge of involvement in the  three-day rampage in Mumbai, India’s largest city, which has often been called  India’s 9/11.

Rana’s  attorney, Patrick  Blegen, had argued for a more lenient sentence that would take into account  his poor health and the emotional impact of his separation from his wife and  children. He said Rana had suffered a heart attack while in the federal lockup.  He also argued that Rana did not present a future risk.

“Judge,  he is a good man and he got sucked into something, but there’s no risk that he’s  going to do it again. None,” Blegen said.

Judge Harry  Leinenweber said he was baffled at the descriptions put forward by his  family of Rana as a kind, caring person, saying it was so “contrary” to the  person who aided the plot on the newspaper’s office.

“On  the one hand we have a very intelligent person who is capable of providing  assistance to many people,” the judge said just before announcing his sentence.  “But what is difficult to understand is: a person with that intelligence and  that background and history of helping others … how that type of person could  get sucked into a dastardly plot that was proposed.”

The  government’s star witness at Rana’s trial was admitted terrorist David  Coleman Headley, who had pleaded guilty to laying the groundwork for the  Mumbai attacks. The American Pakistani testified against his school friend Rana  to avoid the death penalty and extradition. He is scheduled to be sentenced in  Chicago next week.

Headley  spent five days on the witness stand — taking up more than half the trial — detailing how he allegedly worked for both the Pakistani intelligence agency  known as the ISI and Lashkar.

Prosecutors  also presented Rana’s videotaped arrest statement to the FBI, during which he  said he knew Headley had trained with Lashkar. They also played a September 2009  recorded phone conversation between the men.

Prosecutor Daniel  Collins argued for a tough punishment that would deter others who would take  part in similar plots and reflect the seriousness of the offense.

“There’s  not much worse than mass murder of this scale,” he said of the plot, which was  not ultimately carried out.

The  judge responded that he doubted any sentence he imposed would deter anyone bent  on committing a terrorist attack.

“Seems  to me that people determined to carry out terrorism really don’t care what  happens to them,” Leinenweber said. He added, however, that a long sentence  would help prevent Rana from taking part in any future  terrorist activity.

The  judge also rejected the government’s argument that the plot against the Danish  newspaper was meant as a broader attack against the Danish government, amounting  to an act of terrorism that should mean a harsher sentence.

Leinenweber  said it seemed clear the plot was solely targeting an independent newspaper on  private property, and was likely intended to intimidate other media outlets that  might defame Islam or its prophet.

The  defense attorney, Blegen, also noted that there was no shortage of government  targets in Copenhagen if they had wanted to strike at  Denmark’s leaders.

Rana’s  wife was not present at Thursday’s sentencing, and the defense attorney said the  woman, a Canadian citizen, was recently denied entry to the  United States.

Rana  was also accused of allowing Headley to open a branch of his Chicago-based  immigration law business in Mumbai as a cover story and travel as a  representative of the company in Denmark. In court, a travel agent showed how  Rana booked travel for Headley.

At  the trial defense attorneys chipped away at Headley’s credibility, portraying  him as a manipulator and habitual liar. Jurors’ decision not to convict Rana on  all counts could suggest they weren’t fully convinced by Headley.

Rana’s  trial in 2011 came just weeks after Navy SEALs found Osama  bin Laden hiding in Pakistan. Some observers had expected testimony could  reveal details about alleged links between ISI and Lashkar-e-Taiba. In the end,  though, much that came out in testimony had been heard before through  indictments and a report released by India’s government.

The  Pakistani government has maintained it did not know about bin Laden or help plan  the Mumbai attacks.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

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Posted by on January 17, 2013. Filed under NY News,Slider. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.