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US court finds Rana NOT GUILTY in 26/11 case

Last updated on: June 10, 2011 10:45 IST

Image: Tahawwur Hussain Rana

Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Hussain Rana was on Thursday acquitted by a United States court on charges of abetting the Mumbai terror attacks but was convicted for providing material support to the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and helping a terror plot in Denmark.

The 12-member jury announced the verdict at the end of two days of deliberations against 50-year-old Rana, a co-accused in the Mumbai attack with David Coleman Headley.

Rana faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison on the two counts combined and remains in federal custody without bond, a US Justice Department statement said. No sentencing date has been set.

The verdict was announced by US District Judge Harry D Leinenweber shortly after 4.30 pm in the court room.

Rana was stunned

Image: David Headley

Justice Department spokesman Randall Samborn said, "A Federal Court jury has convicted defendant Rana on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to the Denmark terrorism plot and one count of providing material support to Lashkar-e-Tayiba, and not guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008."

Rana, who was brought in the court from the local prison at 4.30 pm, was stunned after the verdict was pronounced. The verdict came nearly three weeks of trial at the Chicago court.

Prosecutors alleged that Rana was aware of the Mumbai terror strike and was in contact with the terrorist groups and their leaders in Pakistan.

Rana pleaded not guilty

Image: The Taj Mahal hotel, one of the targets of the 26/11 terror strike

Rana's attorney, on the other hand, pleaded not guilty and said that Headley, an all time liar, had fooled him.

Pakistani-American Headley, 50, was the government's star witness during the trial. Headley had entered into a plea bargain with US authorities to testify against other suspects in order to avoid the death penalty and being extradited to India, Pakistan and Denmark.

In its statement, the Justice Department said Rana, a Pakistani native who operated a Chicago-based immigration business was convicted of participating in conspiracy involving a terrorism plot against a Danish newspaper and providing material support to a terrorist organisation based in Pakistan.

'We don't know what the jury was thinking'

Image: A video grab of Tahawwur Rana

"The defendant, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, was found guilty by a federal jury that deliberated two days following a trial that began May 16 in the US District Court. The jury acquitted Rana of conspiracy to provide material support to the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people, including six Americans," it said. The judge ordered the defence to file post-trial motions by August 15.

Patrick Blegan, Rana's attorney, said, "We do not know what the jury was thinking."

He said, "We are disappointed".

Blegan said this sentencing could result in a maximum of 30 years of imprisonment, 15 years for each of the two counts in which Rana was found guilty. He said the jury decided that there was no death penalty involved due to Rana providing material support to LeT.

'Mumbai part of the verdict is very significant'

Image: The Danish newspaper office that was targeted by Headley and Rana

"This is a split verdict. The Mumbai part of the verdict is very significant as the jury did not find him guilty in the terrorist attacks," he said.

Those present in the court room were US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and assistant attorney Daniel Collins and Vicky Peters, Defense attorney Blegen, Rana's wife Samraz Rana their two daughters and mother of Samraz.

Blegan and Rana's family members looked tense and crestfallen.

"The message should be clear to all those who help terrorists, that we will bring to justice all those who seek to facilitate violence," said Patrick J Fitzgerald, United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

'Those who died in Mumbai demand justice'

Image: Tahawwur Rana

"Today's verdict demonstrates our commitment to hold accountable not only terrorist operatives, but also those who facilitate their activities. As established at trial, Rana provided valuable cover and support to David Headley, knowing that Headley and others were plotting terror attacks overseas," said Todd Hinnen, acting assistant attorney general for National Security.

"We will not rest in our efforts to identify and bring to justice those who provide support to terrorists," he said.

"Those who died in Mumbai demand justice. You (the jury) will find the truth that this man knew that his trained terrorist friend (Headley) was bent on killing people," Collins urged the jury in his final arguments.