(Updates with defense arguments in fifth paragraph.)
June 7 (Bloomberg) -- Tahawwur Rana knew what he was doing when he helped plan the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed about 160 people, including six Americans, a U.S. prosecutor told a federal jury in Chicago.
Rana, a Pakistani native and Canadian citizen, is accused of providing a cover story and phony identification for Washington-born David Coleman Headley, who last year pleaded guilty to charges he helped select targets for the three-day siege in India. Rana’s lawyers say Headley lied to their client.
“He’s not some fool,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Victoria Peters said of Rana in her closing argument today. “He knows exactly who David Headley is and what David Headley is about, and he fully approves.”
Rana, 50, who ran an immigration services business with offices in Chicago, New York and Toronto, is charged with three counts of providing material support to terrorists and could receive life in prison if he is convicted. Headley, who faced a possible death sentence before his plea, testified as the U.S. government’s lead witness against Rana.
In his closing, defense attorney Patrick Blegen portrayed Headley as a life-long manipulator and confidence man who trained to be a spy in Pakistan.
‘Nothing Is Simple’
“Nothing is simple when it comes to David Headley,” Blegen told the jury. “He thinks he can fool everyone. He can’t fool you.”
In her closing, Peters showed jurors e-mails between the two men and a business card that she said was printed with Rana’s approval and that identified Headley as an “immigration consultant” for a business called “immigrant law center” with offices in Chicago, New York and Toronto.
“Rana was not a dupe, he was not a fool,” Peters told the jurors, whose identities are being kept secret.
She also referred to a recording played for the jury of a conversation between the two men on Sept. 7, 2009, about the Mumbai attacks. Blegen said Headley lied to his client to control his knowledge and did so as late as the time of that conversation, which was recorded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In their talk, the men can be heard comparing how each learned of the Mumbai attacks, which contradicts government claims that Rana helped to plan them, Blegen said. Headley was arrested less than a month later, he said.
“He is not a knowing conspirator,” Blegen said of Rana.
Born Daood Gilani, the son of an American woman and a Pakistani man, Headley, 50, told jurors he had known Rana since they attended a military academy in Pakistan as teenagers. He also said he considered the Chicago businessman his “best friend in the world.”
Rana allegedly allowed Headley to open a branch of his immigration services business in Mumbai. The assault there has been blamed on the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which the U.S. labeled a terrorist organization in 2001.
While in India, Headley conducted video surveillance of sites including the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Oberoi Hotel, a café, a train station and a Jewish community center, all of which were later attacked, according to his plea agreement.
Headley testified that he was working with Lashkar as well as with a Pakistani intelligence officer identified only as “Major Iqbal,” and another man, al-Qaeda affiliate Ilyas Kashmiri, who was reported killed in a U.S. missile attack on June 3.
Peters said Headley schemed with Kashmiri to plan attacks on Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, the Copenhagen newspaper that printed inflammatory cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 2005.
Posing as an agent of Rana’s immigration services firm seeking to place an ad, Headley traveled to Denmark to learn the newspaper’s layout for an assault, Peters said. She asked the jury to consider why else Rana and Headley would patronize a newspaper that had insulted Muslims around the world.
“This is a simple case about awful things: two terror plots,” Peters said.
Blegen said the case hinged on whether his client knew about Headley’s actions.
“Ignorance is not knowledge,” the lawyer told the jury. “If somebody makes you ignorant, you do not have knowledge.”
The case is U.S. v. Kashmiri, 09-cr-00830, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).
--Editors: Andrew Dunn, Glenn Holdcraft
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