The US government has submitted in a California court that Tahawwur Hussain Rana — the key accused in the November 26, 2008 Mumbai attacks — be cleared for extradition to India as his offences and legal situation fulfill all the criteria for his handover.
In December 2019, India had applied for Rana’s extradition through the Ministry of External Affairs. In June this year, US authorities put Rana under detention based on a provisional request for arrest from the National Investigation Agency (NIA). He had then been prematurely released from US federal prison, where he was serving a sentence for conspiracy to attack Danish newspaper Jylland Posten’s office in Denmark. In August, the US filed the request for extradition in the designated court.
On September 28, the US government, represented by Christopher D Grigg, chief of the National Security Division of the US Attorney’s Office, along with attorney Nicola T Hanna submitted in the Court for Central District of California that Rana’s prior arguments against his extradition to India “had no merit”.
“In the instant case, the elements necessary for the Court to certify Rana’s eligibility for extradition have been met. There is subject matter and personal jurisdiction over Rana. A valid extradition treaty permits extradition for some of the offenses charged in India. And there is probable cause to believe that Rana committed these offenses,” the submission said.
Interestingly though, the US government has submitted that it is not proceeding on some of the charges as pressed by India, including “membership of a terror organisation”, “conspiracy to wage war” and “conspiracy to commit terrorist act”, as they do not fulfil the criteria of “dual criminality”. It has, however, said that “the dual-criminality requirement (of the extradition treaty) is met because the remaining charged offenses are punishable in both India and the United States”.
The hearing in the case is scheduled to begin in January 2021.
At the extradition hearing, the Court considers the evidence presented on behalf of the requesting country and determines whether the legal requirements for certification, as defined in the relevant treaty, statutes, and case law, have been established. The Secretary of State, and not the Court, decides whether the fugitive should be surrendered to the requesting country.
Rana — a school friend of David Coleman Headley, who has been convicted for his role in the Mumbai terror attacks — has been accused by India of aiding and abetting the reconnaissance carried by Headley and participating in the conspiracy for the attack. Rana had falsely represented Headley as an employee of his visa facilitation company named Immigration Law Centre and opened an office in Mumbai to give him cover for reconnaissance.
In his prior submissions in court, Rana had opposed his extradition on the grounds that he had been acquitted by the California court on charges of abetting the Mumbai terror attacks in 2011 and that since Headley had not been extradited, he could not be extradited either. He also pleaded double jeopardy.
The submissions by the US government have rejected these arguments, saying the offences in the two countries Rana has been charged with are not identical. “Double jeopardy likewise does not apply” as “extradition proceedings are not criminal proceedings in which the fugitive is entitled to the same rights available during criminal proceedings”.
It has also said parallels with Headley cannot be drawn as he had entered a plea bargain.
“When interpreting an extradition treaty, the extradition magistrate must construe its provisions liberally, in a manner favoring the obligation to surrender fugitives…The extradition court is not authorized to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to justify conviction… The extradition court need only determine whether there is probable cause to believe that the fugitive committed the offense or offenses for which extradition is sought,” the government submitted.
Explaining why this “probable cause” was there in the case, the submission has recounted Rana’s role in the Mumbai attacks conspiracy and also cited some evidence of his involvement.
It has pointed out how between June 2006 and November 2008, Headley had travelled to Chicago at least three times, during which he met with Rana and conveyed detailed information about his surveillance activities in Mumbai.
It has said that Headley even arranged for Rana to meet one of their co-conspirators from Pakistan in Dubai. “…the coconspirator warned Rana not to travel to India due to the upcoming attacks. As a result …Rana did not travel to India,” the submissions have said.
In September 2009, the FBI intercepted a conversation between Rana and Headley, where Rana told Headley that the nine LeT attackers who had been killed during the attacks should be given Pakistan’s highest military award. “Rana also asked Headley to tell another co-conspirator in Pakistan — a member of LeT and one of the planners of the Mumbai attacks — that Rana thought that he should get a medal… When Rana learned that Headley already had conveyed this compliment to their co-conspirator, he was pleased,” the submission has said.
It has also cited another conversation where the two talk about a Styrofoam model of Taj Palace Hotel made by the planners in Pakistan and how Headley thought it was “terrible” to which Rana responded with laughter.
“In December 2008, Headley shared what he learned from their co-conspirators in Pakistan about the different places that had been attacked. Referring to a 1971 attack on his school in Pakistan, Headley told Rana that he believed he was ‘even with the Indians now.’ In response, Rana said they (the Indian people) deserved it,” the submissions said.
“These facts, and those set forth in the extradition request, establish that Rana was a member of the conspiracy and understood the consequences of his and others’ actions. He understood that he was working with LeT and others committed to terrorism. …Thus, there is probable cause that Rana committed the charged offenses of conspiracy, conspiracy to wage war, conspiracy to commit a terrorist act, participation in the waging of war, the commission of murder, and the commission of a terrorist act,” they added.
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