Chicago businessman found guilty of link to Pakistani militant group

10:19, June 10, 2011      

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by Ted Regencia

A Canadian-Pakistani citizen who owns several businesses in Chicago was found guilty Thursday of helping a terror plot in Denmark and supporting a militant group in Pakistan.

However, he was acquitted of the more serious charge of conspiracy "to provide material support" to the attackers of Mumbai, India in 2008.

The federal court in Chicago said Tahawwur Rana supported a terror plot against a Danish newspaper, which printed controversial cartoons against the Muslim prophet Muhammad. The plot was not carried out.

The court also said Rana secretly aided the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba's (LeT) activities in Pakistan.

U.S. government prosecutors, however, failed to establish before the court Rana's direct link to the 2008 LeT terrorist attack in India that killed more than 100 people.

"The message should be clear to all those who help terrorists - we will bring to justice all those who seek to facilitate violence," U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a statement.

Rana's defense attorneys and his families in Chicago and Canada maintained he is innocent of all charges.

Rana, a native of Punjab province in Pakistan, holds a Canadian passport. While he has a residence in Ottawa, Canada, he has been a long-time resident of Chicago with businesses here, including an immigration consultancy.

Prosecutors based their argument against Rana on documents as well as a testimony of another terrorist suspect David Coleman Headley, who earlier pleaded guilty for his role in the 2008 Mumbai attack.

Headley told the court that Rana provided cover for him. He also testified that he "advised" Rana on the planned attack on the Danish newspaper and his plan to travel to Denmark to conduct "surveillance" to the newspaper's facilities.

Because of the plea deal and his cooperation with prosecutors, Headley was spared the death penalty.

"Tahawwur Rana provided valuable cover and support to David Headly, knowing that Headley and others were plotting attacks overseas," Todd Hinnen, acting assistant attorney general for national security, added in a statement.

Six other suspects, including Abdur Rehman and Ilyas Kashmiri are facing similar charges. But they are not in U.S. custody.

In a curious twist to the case, the U.S. government initially blocked India's access to Headley, thus arousing suspicions in New Delhi that Headley is double-agent who is also working for the United States. But that accusation has been denied by the CIA.

A future court date will determine Rana's sentence. He could face up to 30 years in prison for the two guilty verdicts.

"The effort to combat terrorism and bring justice to the victims is a global effort, requiring the cooperation and collaboration of many countries and many people," said Robert D. Grant, special agent of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Source: Xinhua
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