In a verdict that “disappointed” India, a US jury cleared Pakistan-born Canadian Tahawwur Rana of charges that he helped with the 26/11 Mumbai attack but convicted him of supporting the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Islamist militant group New Delhi blames for the carnage.
The Indian government stressed it was still carrying out investigations against Rana, but the Bharatiya Janata Party said New Delhi had not done enough to get him convicted for the Mumbai attack and wanted an appeal filed against the verdict.Rana, 50, was held “not guilty” by a jury in the famed Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago Thursday, bringing some relief to the terror suspect and his family present.It was a major victory for the defence as being held guilty would have meant life in prison.As Judge Harry D. Leinenweber acquitted him for the 2008 slaughter of 166 people, including six Americans, in Mumbai, his wife, mother and some other family members huddled together in prayer in the court.But the verdict disappointed the Indian government, which had been monitoring the court proceedings to file charges in India against Rana and his close friend David Coleman Headley, who has confessed to filming 26/11 terror sites and other potential terror targets.
“We are disappointed that Rana was acquitted on the count of conspiracy to provide material support to the Mumbai terrorist attack,” U.K. Bansal, secretary (Internal Security) in the home ministry, told reporters in New Delhi.Bansal said the National Investigation Agency (NIA), probing the case in India against Headley and Rana, was waiting for the proceedings to conclude before filing a chargesheet against them in India.”The NIA has sought documents and evidence produced in the US court and expects to receive them,” he said.Bansal said the US court verdict comes despite evidence produced in the US court that Headley had advised Rana of his assignment to scout targets in India.
“Headley obtained Rana’s consent to open an office of First World Immigration Services as a cover for his activities. Rana advised Headley on how to obtain a visa for travel to India. Headley and Rana had reviewed (the) surveillance of the targets attacked in Mumbai,” the Indian official said.He said Rana had told Headley that the terrorists killed in Mumbai should “receive Pakistan’s highest military honours posthumously”.India also accused Pakistan of “not playing fair with us” and blocking the Mumbai trial. “Yes, of course it did,” External Affairs Minister S.M.Krishna told reporters in Bangalore when asked if India believed that the trial in the US had hit a roadblock because of Pakistan.Krishna said Islamabad must bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack in that country to justice in the backdrop of revelations by Headley that he was funded by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to scout terror targets in India.The opposition in India lashed out at the Congress-led government for not doing enough to get Rana convicted over the Mumbai attack.The Bharatiya Janata Party questioned if the verdict was an outcome of an alleged deal between the US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation and the ISI.”This question is very critical because the ISI was clearly in the dock,” BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
“The US declaring Tahawwur Rana innocent (for) Mumbai has disgraced the sovereignty of India. It is a major foreign policy setback,” Gujarat’s BJP Chief Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.However, Rana, a former Pakistani military doctor, was found guilty of helping the LeT and providing cover and material support to an attempted plot to kill a Danish cartoonist for his “offensive” cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.Rana is expected to be sentenced later. He faces up to 30 years in prison.US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said he was disappointed that Rana was not found guilty in connection with the serious charge of assisting in the Mumbai attack, Chicago Sun Times said.”Rana provided valuable cover and support to David Headly,” said Todd Hinnen, the acting assistant attorney general for national Security.Rana had little reaction, but his family wept quietly and hung their heads after the guilty verdict was pronounced, Chicago Tribune said.Outside the courtroom, Rana’s attorneys, Charles Swift and Patrick Blegen, said he was in shock, Sun Times said.During the two-week trial, prosecution’s star witness Headley, who has pleaded guilty for his role in the Mumbai attack and the Denmark plot, claimed Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency and LeT separately gave him identical instructions to scout locations to be attacked.