Washington: The US Government will not appeal against a Chicago court verdict which found Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana “not guilty” on charges related to his involvement in the Mumbai terrorist attacks, a ruling that was received with disappointment by India.
“After sentencing, Rana may appeal his conviction on the two counts, but the government cannot appeal the jury’s finding of not guilty on the Mumbai count,” a Justice Department official told a news agency on Saturday.
“It is very common knowledge that the law prevents the government from appealing a not guilty verdict. A defendant may appeal a guilty verdict,” the official explained, which is quite contrary to the Indian legal system, where both the government and the defendant can appeal against court rulings.
In a verdict that was received with disappointment by India, the Chicago court on June 19 acquitted Rana on charges of plotting the 2008 Mumbai attacks but held him guilty of supporting Pakistan-based terror group LeT and planning a strike in Denmark that will get him a maximum of 30 years in jail.
Both India and the US have expressed disappointment with the verdict of the 12-member Chicago court jury that found Rana not guilty on charges of the Mumbai terrorist attack that killed 166 people, including six Americans.
“We are disappointed in the not guilty verdict on the Mumbai attacks,” US Attorney, Patrick J Fitzgerald, told reporters after the Chicago jury gave its verdict on Rana case which accused him on three counts of terrorism related charges.
At the same time, the jury found him guilty on the other two counts of charges that he was involved in the Denmark terror plot and provided material support to Lashkar-e-Taiba, designated as a foreign terrorist organisation.
“We are gratified by the guilty verdict of providing material support for the Lashkar. And we are gratified by the guilty verdict to provide material support to the conspiracy in Denmark,” the US attorney said.
“I do not know, the government had the burden of proof,” he said, when asked what went wrong on the 26/11 charges that killed 166 people.
“We put our evidence forward and the jury found that we did not meet the burden (of proof) there. But they did find we made our burden proving material support to Lashkar and they found that we met our burden with regard to attack on Denmark,” Fitzgerald said.
Responding to a question, the US attorney said that he understands that Rana was acquitted on a very serious charge related to the Mumbai terrorist attack.
“What we are saying is that we embrace jury’s verdict and where the jury disagrees with us, we accept that. However, what they did convict him for was very serious given that he was supporting Lashkar’s activities in India is very serious and supporting a plot in Denmark is very serious.
No doubt that he was acquitted of serious conduct and is convicted of very serious conduct.
We are not going to say, we got everything we wanted,” he noted.
“You could find that the government failed to meet its burden to the India plot showing the knowledge he had in advance and they found that we failed to carry that burden so he was acquitted.
“You will also find separately that we showed our burden that he was involved in Denmark plot, because there was more evidence by the time he took steps in Denmark from what he knew from the India plot,” he said.
However, Patrick Blegan, Rana’s attorney, said he on behalf of Rana would file post-trial motions that there was not enough evidence to convict him and that there was an error in the trial.
Though acquitted on Mumbai charges, the jury found Rana guilty of part of the conspiracy related to the terrorist attack in Denmark and provide material support to Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Blegan said “yes” when asked if he is going to appeals first.
“We have 60 days to file post trial motions. “Those are the motions attacking the verdict,” he said.
“I did not have enough time to think about it, frankly, we may have an argument that these are conflicting verdicts, but we need some time to review it and think about it,” he said.
Blegan said count 12 related to Lashkar could have involved Mumbai, jury decided that it didn’t.
“It is our view that it did not because no death resulted from this conduct of providing material support to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT),” he said.