Ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to New Delhi next month, there is renewed vigour in efforts to get Pakistan-born Canadian Tahawwur Hussain Rana to stand trial in India, sources said. Rana is wanted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for “hatching a criminal conspiracy of conducting reconnaissance of important places in India for future attacks by the terrorist organizations LeT and HUJI”.
Rana was arrested in Chicago by the FBI on October 18, 2009 for providing material support to the conspiracy to commit terrorist acts involving murder, kidnapping and maiming outside the US, including Mumbai and Copenhagen.
“There is renewed activity on requests under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) between the two countries, so that the issue of Rana’s extradition can be raised during President Obama’s visit to India next month,” a source told The Sunday Express. Indian officials have been asked to provide clarifications on certain legal aspects, and the NIA is hopeful of a positive outcome, sources said.
“Last month, meetings were held with the US Department of Justice officials through video-conferencing, during which some clarifications were sought from the NIA on its request under the MLAT. In principle, the US side has no objections to Rana’s extradition, but has asked Indian authorities to state the finer differences between the NIA’s charges against Rana, and those for which he stood trial in the US. These clarifications are being sent to the US before the Obama visit,” said the source.
Rana was sentenced to 14 years in prison on January 17 last year, after a three-week trial in a US district court in Chicago. Both Rana and Pakistan-born US citizen David Coleman Headley alias Daood Gilani are wanted by the NIA. But Headley cannot be extradited as he entered into a plea bargain with US officials, which grants exemption from any such move. However, the NIA’s demand for extradition of Rana still stands.
The NIA has hired the services of special counsel Dayan Krishnan to clarify “subtle differences in the charges” in an attempt to allay the DOJ’s concerns of double jeopardy arising if Rana is extradited. When contacted by The Sunday Express, Krishnan said, “These are sensitive matters, I cannot comment on them.”
Rana was convicted by the Chicago court of conspiracy to provide material support to a plot from October 2008 to October 2009 to commit murder in Denmark, including a plan to behead employees of Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, and throw their heads on to the street in Copenhagen, as well as providing material support, from late 2005 to October 2009, to the LeT, which planned and carried out the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.
“The trial against Rana cannot be completed in absentia. All that is required is Rana’s presence in court for a couple of days so he can either plead guilty or innocent to the charges against him, and for cross-examination if required. He can then immediately be sent back to the US to complete his prison sentence there,” a source said.
The NIA filed a chargesheet in the case on November 11, 2009 against Headley, Rana, Hafiz Saaed, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Ilyas Kashmiri, Sajid Mir, Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, Major Iqbal and Major Sameer Ali. The accused allegedly planned and made preparations by scouting important places in India on behalf of the LeT and HuJI including, but not limited to, the 26/11 attacks.
After the attacks, Headley allegedly visited India from March 7, 2009 to March 17, 2009, during which he recceed Chabad Houses in Delhi, Pushkar, Goa and Pune. Rana is accused of providing logistic, financial and other assistance to Headley and the other co-conspirators towards the fulfillment of the criminal conspiracy. Headley, in association with Rana, allegedly established an Immigrant Law Centre office in Mumbai to provide base and cover for the activities of LeT and HuJI in organising future terrorist attacks in India.
“Further, before the execution of other future planned terrorist attacks (planned attacks on various Chabad Houses and National Defence College, Delhi) the accused persons were arrested by the FBI in Chicago,” the NIA chargesheet states.