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26/11: Prosecution defends plea agreement with Headley

Wednesday, 8 June 2011 - 10:31am IST | Place: Chicago | Agency: PTI

In final arguments in the trial of Tahawwur Rana, a key accused in Mumbai attacks, US prosecutors defended a plea agreement with David Headley saying it helped FBI extract invaluable information from him about LeT

The prosecution and the defence presented their final arguments for and against Tahawwur Rana's culpability in 26/11 attacks, with the former pleading for justice to the Mumbai victims and the latter portraying the Pakistani-Canadian as a man duped by conman David Headley.

A federal jury hearing the case is now set to begin its final deliberations to decide Rana's fate after the closing arguments were presented in the court that is set to deliver the verdict.

Rana himself, however, chose to remain silent and did not testify at his trial that stretched for a fortnight.

The 50-year-old doctor is charged with providing material support to terrorists by providing cover for main accused Headley while he laid the groundwork for the Mumbai attack in which 166 people died in a two-day siege.

The government prosecutors argued that there was overwhelming evidence of not only Rana having the knowledge of but also assisting and providing material support to his childhood friend Headley in carrying out the attack in November 2008.

They pleased for justice for the victims of the ghastly terror attack in India.

"Those who died in Mumbai demand justice. You (the jury) will find the truth. This man knew that his trained terrorist friend (Headley) was bent on killing people," US attorney Daniel Collins said to the 12-member jury in his final arguments in a packed court room.

Not only media persons from various parts of the world, but also government officials, community leaders and Rana's family members were present in the court.

Sitting in the court room, Rana, who has maintained silence throughout the proceedings looked a bit tensed as the trial came to end.

"What happened in Mumbai could have happened in Copenhagen. 164 people died in flurry of bullets (in Mumbai). Such horrific acts take place with help of a number of people whether you carried a gun or did something helped in the planning or had the knowledge," Collins said.

Rana's defence, on the other hand, asked the court not to get fooled by Headley, who they said had fooled everyone in the world including the FBI.

In an emotional appeal, defense attorney Patric Blegen pleaded that his client was a religious man and was duped by Headley who used him for executing his terrorist plans.

"Headley fooled everyone. Don't let Headley fool you. Please do not convict Rana in this case," Blegen pleaded.

 He said Rana was simply a businessman who was interested in expanding his business overseas including in Mumbai, Lahore, Karachi and Denmark.

Headley exploited Rana's business expansion plans and duped him as he used the business to serve the terrorist interest of both the ISI and Lashkar-e-Taiba, he argued.

"He (Headley) lies under oath. He lies to accomplish his goals," the defense attorney said.

"Headley sacrificed Rana for himself and his family," Blegen argued as he reiterated that he and his team presented before the court over the past two weeks that Rana had no knowledge about Headley's terrorist intentions.

Rana's lawyer Charles Swift said the government has to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that Rana was gulity.

The trial saw LeT operative turned government witness Headley testifying for five days and making revelations about the role of ISI in the Mumbai incident.

But Swift said that he wouldn't believe Headley on anything because he was manipulative.

"First Rana went to Mumbai before the attacks which makes no sense and shows that Rana did not know of the attacks," Swift said.

"Second, when Headley was preparing for the Denmark attacks, Rana suggested that his 75-year-old business partner Raymond Sanders come along. Again that is not indicative of any knowledge," Swift said.

"We think that actions speak louder than any of the words in this case and if you put those things together there is clearly reasonable doubt," Swift said.

He said Headley was a "predator" who preys on people and that he has been doing it for 30 years. Rana had no knowledge of what Headley was planning with the ISI people. The Army doctor, who was declared a deserter after refusing a glacier posting, has claimed that Headley was using his influence with the ISI people to make it possible for him to return to Pakistan.

"The emails with Rana, Headley and ISI was there. There was no e-mail from Pasha, Sajid or any terrorist organisations. E-mails show Rana was systematically cut out from any information that might be there," Swift said.

In final arguments in the trial of Tahawwur Rana, a key accused in Mumbai attacks, US prosecutors defended a plea agreement with David Headley saying it helped FBI extract invaluable information from him about LeT, while the defence portrayed him as a conman who duped their client. Government Attorney Vicky Peters told the jury that in the first two weeks of his arrest in 2009, Headley provided information on the entire leadership structure of LeT, its work structure and planning of terrorist plots.

She defended the plea agreement with Headley, a Pakistani-American, under which he will not be given death sentence and will also not be extradited to Pakistan, India or Denmark, saying that this was in exchange for the cooperation extended by the LeT operative.

The information provided by Headley was shared with other governments, she said, without mentioning India, adding that this helped in preventing a number of terrorist attacks.

While stating that there is no doubt that Headley is an "awful man", she added that to carry out an attack requires a lot of planning and manpower. "Headley is a big part of the conspiracy. But it is this man (Rana) who helped Headley to travel to India, set up business there," Peters said.

She said under the guilty plea agreement, Headley would not be given death sentence, but the government would request the judge to give him as many years of imprisonment as he thinks it fit. 50-year-old Rana himself, however, chose to remain silent and did not testify at his trial in a court here that stretched for a fortnight.

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