A Pakistan-born Chicago businessman was part of the “inner circle” of men who plotted the 2008 Mumbai attacks and therefore must have been involved, US prosecutors said Tuesday in closing arguments.
Tahawwur Rana’s trial was closely watched as it touched on Pakistani military intelligence involvement — a hugely sensitive subject since the killing of Osama bin Laden last month sparked similar US allegations.
Rana, a 50-year-old Canadian citizen, is charged with providing material support to terrorists by acting as a messenger and providing a cover for a key figure in the bloody 60-hour siege of India’s largest city in which 166 people died.
“When it’s all said and done, this is a simple case about awful things — two terror plots,” prosecutor Victoria Peters told jurors. “One that was carried out and one that was mercifully stopped.”
Peters cited coded emails and a lengthy conversation, taped by the FBI, between Rana and confessed conspirator David Headley as evidence of his involvement and support for the Mumbai attacks and a second plot on a Danish newspaper.
Headley, Rana’s old friend from military school in Pakistan, has been cooperating with prosecutors since his 2009 arrest at a Chicago airport and was the star witness during the trial.
When it emerged last month that bin Laden had hidden for years in a Pakistani garrison town before being shot May 2 by US Navy SEALs, serious questions were raised about the possible collusion of Pakistan’s military.
Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency has long been suspected of involvement in the Mumbai attacks and three ISI agents were named as co-conspirators by US prosecutors following Headley’s 2009 arrest.
Headley, who pleaded guilty to 12 terror charges arising out of the attacks on India’s financial capital and other unrealized plots, testified that a handful of ISI agents were involved in the Mumbai plot.
Rana insisted after his 2009 arrest that he was a pacifist who was “duped” into letting his old friend use his immigration services company as a cover.
But, in summing up, Peters returned repeatedly to a transcript that showed Rana laughing about the Mumbai attacks and saying that the men who carried out the siege should be given “the highest honors.”
“The Tahawwur Rana you hear chatting freely about terrorism in this car ride with his childhood friend David Headley is no dupe,” Peters said.
“The defendant Mr. Rana knowingly conspired or agreed to support terror plots in India and Denmark.”
She pointed to a Dubai meeting Rana described having had with the architect of the Mumbai attacks.
“Rana says in this conversation that Pasha had given him the warning in Dubai that the attack was imminent,” Peters said.
“What does it tell you about Rana that Pasha gave him this warning? Pasha knows that Rana is part of the inner circle. Pasha knows he can trust Rana.”
Peters told jurors that she believed the government had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Rana knowingly provided material support to terrorism in both plots and asked them to find him guilty on all three counts.
Headley formally admitted to 12 terrorism charges in March 2010 after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty or to allow him to be extradited to either India, Pakistan or Denmark to face related charges.
Headley, the Washington-born son of a former Pakistani diplomat and an American woman, admitted to spending months scoping out sites for the Mumbai siege.