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US prosecutors seek 30-yr sentence for LeT operative Rana

Last updated on: January 15, 2013 13:38 IST

The United States prosecutors on Tuesday sought 30 years' imprisonment for Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana, an accomplice of convicted terrorist David Headley, for providing material support to Laskar-e-Tayiba and conspiring for a terror attack on a Danish newspaper.

A federal grand jury in June 2011 had found 52-year-old Rana guilty of providing material support to LeT and planning an aborted plot to bomb the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

Rana, who was originally arrested in 2009 for his involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, was acquitted of the charge. However, Indian investigators have charged him of being involved in the Mumbai attack that killed 166 people and is seeking to question him for the second time.

Headley, who conducted reconnaissance of the targets of the Mumbai terror attacks for LeT, had entered a plea bargain with the FBI, saving him from a possible death penalty.

"The government respectfully submits that the court order the sentences on counts eleven and twelve to run consecutively and impose a total sentence of 30 years' imprisonment," Acting US Attorney Gary S Shapiro requested the Chicago court in a position paper.

Rana's sentencing is scheduled for January 17. Citing poor health condition, Rana's attorney Patrick W Blegan urged the court for lighter sentencing.

Referring to the heart attack Rana suffered in June 2012, and the hospitalisations thereafter, Blegan said that Rana is in very poor health and requested the judge to take it into account while sentencing.

"It is likely that his health will continue to deteriorate. He will likely at some point require dialysis due to his kidney disease, and is, of course, at risk for a second heart attack or vasovagal event," Blegan told the court.

Federal prosecutors, however, opposed any move to reduce Rana's sentencing on health ground.

"His attorney have sought lighter sentence citing the heart attack he suffered in June 2012. This is not a compelling factor," the government's position paper said.

In the position paper ahead of Rana's scheduled sentencing -- which has been postponed for two times so far -- federal prosecutors alleged that he was involved in the terrorist attack on the Danish newspaper, which would have resulted in a mass-level casualty.

"Indeed, the government introduced a recording in which defendant discussed Denmark as a target. And, when Rana heard the gruesome details of the murderous plan, his stark response was telling -- 'good' and he said, 'this would be a huge event in the media'. This was not the first time that Rana applauded mass murder," the Acting US Attorney said.

After 166 men, women and children were mercilessly slaughtered by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Rana simply stated that the victims "deserved it."

Rana praised the attacks, stating in a recorded conversation that they struck "fear in the hearts of Indians."

"Instead of showing any compassion for the innocent victims, the defendant believed that the Lashkar leader who planned the attack and the nine Lashkar operatives who carried out the attacks, deserved medals," the attorney said.

"Lashkar, of course, was the very terrorist organisation to which Rana provided material support for years. The defendant admitted that he knew Headley worked for Lashkar for five to six years before 2009, and worked to make Headley available as personnel for Lashkar, and to conceal Headley's activity, for years. For this reason, the jury properly found the defendant guilty of Count Twelve, which charged that defendant provided material support to Lashkar," he wrote.

Far from a lapse in judgment in choosing his friends, the evidence supported that Rana was well aware of the despicable, violent aims of those he supported, and played an essential role in providing material support to the conspiracy to commit murder in Denmark, the US attorney said.

Further, the evidence also established that Rana knew he was providing material support to a banned terrorist group.

"Because of the nature of defendant's offenses and the need for the sentence to reflect the seriousness of defendant's criminal conduct, promote respect for the law, provide just punishment, and to deter others from such criminal conduct, among other factors, the government respectfully submits that the Court order the sentences on Counts Eleven and Twelve to run consecutively, and impose a total sentence of 30 years' imprisonment," the attorney said.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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