CHICAGOÂ (AP) – A Chicago businessman was sentenced to 14 years in prison Thursday forÂ providing material support to overseas terrorism, including a Pakistani groupÂ whose 2008 attacks on Mumbai, India, left more than 160 people dead.
TheÂ judge sentenced Tahawwur Rana in U.S. District Court in Chicago to the prisonÂ term followed by five years of supervised release.
TheÂ Pakistani-born Canadian declined to address the judge prior to sentencing. Rana,Â 52, faced a maximum 30 years in prison.
JurorsÂ in 2011 convicted Rana of providing support for the Pakistani group,Â Lashkar-e-Taiba, and for supporting a never-carried-out plot to attack a DanishÂ newspaper that printed cartoons of the ProphetÂ Muhammad in 2005. The cartoons angered many Muslims because pictures of theÂ prophet are prohibited in Islam.
ButÂ jurors cleared Rana of the third and most serious charge of involvement in theÂ three-day rampage in Mumbai, India’s largest city, which has often been calledÂ India’s 9/11.
Rana’sÂ attorney, PatrickÂ Blegen, had argued for a more lenient sentence that would take into accountÂ his poor health and the emotional impact of his separation from his wife andÂ children. He said Rana had suffered a heart attack while in the federal lockup.Â He also argued that Rana did not present a future risk.
“Judge,Â he is a good man and he got sucked into something, but there’s no risk that he’sÂ going to do it again. None,” Blegen said.
Judge HarryÂ Leinenweber said he was baffled at the descriptions put forward by hisÂ family of Rana as a kind, caring person, saying it was so “contrary” to theÂ person who aided the plot on the newspaper’s office.
“OnÂ the one hand we have a very intelligent person who is capable of providingÂ assistance to many people,” the judge said just before announcing his sentence.Â “But what is difficult to understand is: a person with that intelligence andÂ that background and history of helping others … how that type of person couldÂ get sucked into a dastardly plot that was proposed.”
TheÂ government’s star witness at Rana’s trial was admitted terrorist DavidÂ Coleman Headley, who had pleaded guilty to laying the groundwork for theÂ Mumbai attacks. The American Pakistani testified against his school friend RanaÂ to avoid the death penalty and extradition. He is scheduled to be sentenced inÂ Chicago next week.
HeadleyÂ spent five days on the witness stand – taking up more than half the trial – detailing how he allegedly worked for both the Pakistani intelligence agencyÂ known as the ISI and Lashkar.
ProsecutorsÂ also presented Rana’s videotaped arrest statement to the FBI, during which heÂ said he knew Headley had trained with Lashkar. They also played a September 2009Â recorded phone conversation between the men.
Prosecutor DanielÂ Collins argued for a tough punishment that would deter others who would takeÂ part in similar plots and reflect the seriousness of the offense.
“There’sÂ not much worse than mass murder of this scale,” he said of the plot, which wasÂ not ultimately carried out.
TheÂ judge responded that he doubted any sentence he imposed would deter anyone bentÂ on committing a terrorist attack.
“SeemsÂ to me that people determined to carry out terrorism really don’t care whatÂ happens to them,” Leinenweber said. He added, however, that a long sentenceÂ would help prevent Rana from taking part in any futureÂ terrorist activity.
TheÂ judge also rejected the government’s argument that the plot against the DanishÂ newspaper was meant as a broader attack against the Danish government, amountingÂ to an act of terrorism that should mean a harsher sentence.
LeinenweberÂ said it seemed clear the plot was solely targeting an independent newspaper onÂ private property, and was likely intended to intimidate other media outlets thatÂ might defame Islam or its prophet.
TheÂ defense attorney, Blegen, also noted that there was no shortage of governmentÂ targets in Copenhagen if they had wanted to strike atÂ Denmark’s leaders.
Rana’sÂ wife was not present at Thursday’s sentencing, and the defense attorney said theÂ woman, a Canadian citizen, was recently denied entry to theÂ United States.
RanaÂ was also accused of allowing Headley to open a branch of his Chicago-basedÂ immigration law business in Mumbai as a cover story and travel as aÂ representative of the company in Denmark. In court, a travel agent showed howÂ Rana booked travel for Headley.
AtÂ the trial defense attorneys chipped away at Headley’s credibility, portrayingÂ him as a manipulator and habitual liar. Jurors’ decision not to convict Rana onÂ all counts could suggest they weren’t fully convinced by Headley.
Rana’sÂ trial in 2011 came just weeks after Navy SEALs found OsamaÂ bin Laden hiding in Pakistan. Some observers had expected testimony couldÂ reveal details about alleged links between ISI and Lashkar-e-Taiba. In the end,Â though, much that came out in testimony had been heard before throughÂ indictments and a report released by India’s government.
TheÂ Pakistani government has maintained it did not know about bin Laden or help planÂ the Mumbai attacks.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle