Is Chicagoan 'pleasant man' or Mumbai terrorist?

January 24, 2010 10:00:00 PM PST
A Chicago businessman pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. Tahawwur Rana entered his plea in a Chicago courtroom Monday. Rana, 49, also pleaded not guilty to charges that he helped plot a terrorist attack on a Danish newspaper that printed some controversial cartoons.

"He's a pleasant man," said Patrick Blegen, defense attorney, about Rana. He calls him a quiet, Gandhi-like man.

But prosecutors paint a different picture of Rana, calling him an important operative in setting up terror attacks that killed 166 people in Mumbai, India, in November 2008. He is accused of working for the Pakistani terror group Lashkar E Taiba, which means "Army of the Good."

"I am optimistic we can fight these charges and clear Mr. Rana's name," said Blegen.

Rana was handcuffed and wore leg irons as he was brought into federal court, surrounded by deputy U.S. marshals. Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Collins explained the new charges against Rana. Magistrate Arlander Keys ordered authorities to continue holding the Rana without bond here at the federal lock-up in Chicago-- in an area reserved for prisoners who misbehave; where no prisoner moves without three guards.

" He has been in a small room by himself for almost 24 hours a day. For visiting, it is much more difficult to visit him than a typical inmate and he doesn't get as much access to the law library as I would like," said Blegen.

Rana's tallest legal hurdle may be David Coleman Headley, his friend from military school and co-defendant. Prosecutors consider Headley the Chicago lynchpin in the case who allegedly worked with Rana to float in and out of India-scouting potential terror targets. Headley is now cooperating with the government, according to prosecutors in Chicago.

Money may be Rana's tallest order. While he owns a grocery story, travel agency and this downstate slaughterhouse to process goat meat, Rana is asking for a taxpayer-funded attorney.

" Virtually no one can afford to defend themselves in a large federal case, for a trial that I don't know how long it is going to be, a month, two months, maybe more. You would have to be an extraordinarily wealthy person to afford that or a corporation," said Blegen.

Rana has offered to post more than $1 million in cash and property-some provided by friends and relatives-as bond to get out of jail. Several bond motions have been denied in federal court; prosecutors arguing that he is a threat to flee and a public danger.

David Headley is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday morning.


Load Comments