Muslim bias results in dismissals at terror trial

May 17, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Several potential jurors in a Chicago terror trial were dismissed after espousing views that Islam equates to terrorism during jury selection proceedings on Tuesday.

They were among numerous possible jurors in the terrorism trial of a Chicago businessman accused of helping plan the deadly 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, who expressed prejudicial statements against Islam and were excused by the Judge James Leinenweber for cause. Jury selection began Monday and jurors will remain anonymous.

The defendant, Tahawwur Rana, is a Muslim who is accused of providing cover for a former school classmate to scout out sites in Mumbai for the rampage that killed more than 160 people including six Americans.

Jurors have answered questions about their familiarity with Islam and views on the religion. The questions are less focused on the jurors' backgrounds and more on topics that could arise during testimony. A young, white, male know as juror number five, was told by the judge that this case is about the support of terrorism. He asked the juror if he would give the government the edge in the case. Juror five replied "absolutely" and was excused. Most jurors have been retained so far.

The potential jurors include a librarian and man who belongs to a machinists union. Twelve jurors and six alternates will be chosen from nearly 100.

Rana also is accused of helping plan an attack that never happened on a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

His original co-defendant in the case, David Coleman Headley-aka Daood Gilani-pleaded guilty in the terrorism case and will be the key witness against Rana. Headley has admitted being recruited, trained and deployed by Pakistani terror group leaders. The expected defense by Mr. Rana is that Headley duped him into a relationship.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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