Federal prosecutors work to send Chicago terrorist to India, where death penalty case awaits

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Federal prosecutors are trying to clear the way for former Chicago travel agent Tahawwur Rana to stand trial in India for his connections to a terrorist massacre in Mumbai that left hundreds of innocent victims dead and wounded. 59-year-old Rana once owned and operated an immigration aid and travel agency in West Rogers Park and was convicted for aiding the Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba which was responsible for the November 2008 attack in India.

The several-day siege by heavily armed terrorist commandos resulted in 166 deaths and more than 300 wounded at sites scattered across Mumbai. Prosecutors paint Rana as a behind-the-scenes terror operative who grew giddy when he learned of the death toll. In a new filing, prosecutors quote Rana as saying that "they (the Indian people) deserved it." The government memo also states Rana wanted Pakistani officials to give medals of honor to top terrorists involved in the horrific operation. Also, the new government filing states that there is probable cause that Rana committed conspiracy, waged war, murder and a terrorist act -- arguing that he should be extradited to stand trial for numerous crimes where in India the maximum sentence is death.

Former federal prosecutor and ABC7 legal analyst Gil Soffer says the Rana extradition case will come down to a fight over an agreement that the United States has with India.

"Our treaty with India prohibits extradition if the defendant has already been convicted, or acquitted of the same offense If the question is 'what does it mean to be convicted or acquitted of the same offense?' the defense will say: 'it means that it's the same underlying conduct in question.' The government will say 'it has to be the same offense, described the same way under the laws of both countries with the same elements of the crime,'" Soffer told the I-Team.

Rana worked in tandem with the master terror scout David Coleman Headley, also a Chicagoan, who became a government witness after his arrest. Headley is currently serving a 35-year sentence but his plea agreement bars extradition. Rana has no such agreement.

While Rana was convicted in Chicago of supporting the terrorist group responsible for that Mumbai attack, he was acquitted of an actual role in the massacre. His defense is likely to point that out in a January 8th extradition hearing. Rana's Chicago attorney Patrick Blegen has not responded to several messages left by the I-Team on Tuesday and during the past few weeks.
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