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Businessman Tahawwur Rana gets 14 years for role in terrorism plots

January 17, 2013|By Michael Muskal
  • A courtroom sketch shows Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana, left, in federal court in Chicago. Rana was sentenced for supporting the Pakistani terrorist group that staged deadly attacks on Mumbai in 2008.
A courtroom sketch shows Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana, left, in federal… (Tom Gianni / Associated…)

A Chicago businessman was sentenced Thursday to 14 years in prison for providing material support to overseas terrorists, including the Pakistani group that launched an attack in Mumbai that left at least 160 dead.

U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber sentenced Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 52, to the prison term, to be followed by five years of supervised release. Rana, born in Pakistan and a citizen of Canada, faced a maximum of 30 years in prison after being convicted June 9, 2011.

“This certainly was a dastardly plot,” said Leinenweber, according to a prepared statement distributed by the Justice Department. Rana declined to comment at the sentencing.

After a three-week trial, jurors convicted Rana of providing support for the Pakistani group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and for supporting a plot to attack a Danish newspaper that in 2005 printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, drawing protests from Muslims across the world. The plot, which was never carried out, included plans to behead employees of Morgenavisen Jayllands-Posten newspaper, and to throw their heads into the street in Copenhagen, according to prosecutors.

Jurors acquitted Rana of the most serious charges of being directly involved in the attack on Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay. That attack, which began Nov. 26, 2008, and lasted until the 29th, involved terrorists using guns and bombs in 12 forays mainly against hotels. In addition to the dead -- which included six Americans -- more than 300 people were injured during the rampage that has been called India’s version of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

“This serious prison sentence should go a long way towards convincing would-be terrorists that they can’t hide behind the scenes, lend support to the violent aims of terrorist organizations, and escape detection and punishment,” said Gary S. Shapiro, acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Rana's attorney, Patrick Blegen, had unsuccessfully argued for a more lenient sentence because Rana has been in poor health and had suffered a heart attack while in custody.

During the trial, the main prosecution witness was David Coleman Headley, 52, who pleaded guilty to laying the groundwork for the Mumbai attacks. Headley, a Pakistani American, testified against Rana to avoid the death penalty in his case. He is scheduled to be sentenced next week and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Headley testified that he worked both for the terrorist group and for the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI.

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