Pakistani-Canadian terror suspect Tahawwur Rana will have to spend more days in custody after a United States judge on Thursday did not hear his bail plea, saying an expected indictment against him may send the case to a different judge.
Rana, who has appealed against his detention and was making renewed efforts to be freed on bond, appeared before US District Judge Matthew Kennelly in the US District Court, Northern District of Illinois.
But the prosecutors said they expect to obtain an indictment against Rana, under investigation for possible links to the Mumbai terror attacks, by January 14. After the indictment, Rana's case could be handled by a different judge.
Judge Kennelly said since he was not certain he would continue to be in charge of the case after the indictment, he would not act on Rana's bail request just yet. He set a status hearing for January 21. Assistant US Attorney Daniel Collins told Kennelly that the government has no plans to request for more time to obtain an indictment against Rana, who is in custody since October 18.
A Chicago court had in November last year given a 58-day extension to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to file an indictment against Rana by January 14. Rana, 48, appeared in court wearing an orange jumpsuit for the hearing that lasted only a few minutes.
After the judge said he will not decide on his bail plea, Rana was escorted by marshals to the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Rana, who has been in custody since October, was denied bail by US Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan in December, who said he might flee the country if released on bond, to escape a possible 30-year jail term.
Rana may use his financial resources and knowledge in immigration law to flee the country, Nolan had said.
Rana's attorney Patrick Blegen has said that if asked, Rana will deny the charges against him. Rana, along with Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley, has been charged with plotting an attack against a Danish newspaper. The FBI has also filed charges against Headley for conspiring in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks that killed 173 people in November 2008.
Headley allegedly made several trips to India scouting for targets for the attack and then shared the information with conspirators in Pakistan. The FBI alleges that Rana 'knew in advance' about the 2008 Mumbai attacks and even 'complimented' terror group Lashkar-e-Tayiba for the terror strike.
Rana has been not charged with any crime in connection with the Mumbai attacks. Meanwhile, some media reports said Rana may use 'deserter defense' in court in his renewed effort to be freed on bail. Rana may contend that he deserted the Pakistani military and is persona non-grata in his homeland.
Since he cannot return to his native Pakistan, where he could be arrested, the judge should allow him out on bond in his terrorism case as he 'promises not to flee'.