Helped 26/11 terrorists at the behest of Pak Govt: Rana

Chicago: Tahawwur Hussain Rana, the Pakistani Canadian accused in the Mumbai terror attack case, has claimed before a court here that he provided "material support" to the terrorists at the behest of the Pakistan Government and its spy agency ISI and not the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Rana in his defence, which is to be produced before the court here, said his "alleged illegal acts of providing material support to terrorists — were done at the behest of the Pakistani government and the ISI, not the Lashkar terrorist organisation," according to court documents.

The documents have been published by Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail ahead of Rana`s trial that is set to begin on May 16.

They reveal that Rana in his defence, which was struck down by the Illinois court, said: "ISI has authority to act in India to protect Pakistan`s national interests."

Trying to invoke "Public Authority Defence" wherein a defendant tries to find shelter under the arguments that his acts were done at the behest of a government, Rana claimed he "acted under the authority — whether actual or apparent– of the Pakistani government and the ISI."

Rana also relied on the grand jury testimony of the co-accused LeT operative David Headley, likely to appear as witness against him, who claimed involvement of one Major Iqbal in funding the terror attacks.

"Therefore, he contends, he relied on a public authority, one that he argues is immune from criminal prosecution in US courts under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act FSIA)… when he engaged in activities such as allowing Headley to open a First World Immigration office in Mumbai," the order of Judge Harry D Leinenweber said.

The court rejected arguments put forth by Rana, saying his defence that "Pakistani Government and ISI officials sanctioned his violations of US Federal law is objectively unreasonable… Defendant acted not in Pakistan or India, but rather in United States."

"He cited no authority holding that a foreign government official can sanction an individual living and acting in the United States to violate US federal law," the court said.

The trial of the Pakistani-Canadian, Mumbai co-accused, is all set to begin here on May 16 and is likely to be held for a month.

49-year old Rana is accused of helping David Headley in setting up his office in Mumbai which the latter used as cover for his trips to the city for identifying targets.

"The process of seating jurors for the trial has begun," US District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber said at the court hearing yesterday.

While 50-year-old Headley, a US citizen, pleaded guilty on March 18 last year, Rana, a Chicago businessman, has pleaded not guilty.

Rana, clad in an orange jumpsuit, sporting a grey beard, appeared in court yesterday, looking around partly smiling and smirking.

"The Santiago Proffer – part of it is going to be sealed and an unsealed portion of it might get filed," Rana`s lawyer Patrick Blegen said.

The Santiago Proffer is a document that prosecutors file in a federal case in which the government lays out the bulk of its case, often connecting the dots among the witnesses, evidence, co-conspirators and motives in the case.

Blegen said that he was preparing the witness list and is consulting with terrorism and computer forensic experts to prepare their case.

Both sides defense and prosecution asked for dates to file claims.

The next hearing is scheduled for April 26.

Rana was indicted by a federal grand jury under 12 counts on February 15 last year for planning the attacks, providing material support to Lashkar-e-Taiba to carry out the bombings, and guiding Headley in scouting targets in Mumbai.

Rana, who had served as a doctor in the Pakistani Army Medical Corps, before he migrated to Canada, is also accused in plotting an attack with Headley on Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that published blasphemous cartoons of Prophet Mohammad.

If convicted, Rana faces a possible life sentence.

The 26/11 attacks by 10 Pakistani terrorists left 166 people dead, including six Americans, in Mumbai.