Chicago terror convict Tahawwur Rana claims to test positive for COVID-19; asks for prison release

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The ABC7 I-Team has learned that a Chicago man convicted in a major terrorism case in the area is making a bid to get out of prison early because of COVID-19.

Tahawwur Rana, 59, is doing time in a California federal prison and a new court filing in Chicago Friday stated that he's tested positive for the virus.

Rana is among a growing number of coronavirus-positive inmates in federal prisons.

The former Chicago travel agent was convicted of ties to a Pakistani terror organization, the same group responsible a deadly siege on Mumbai, India in 2008.

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Rana is less than a year and a half from the end of his sentence in a heavily infected federal prison. He now says he tested positive for the virus on May 1.

He said his life is at risk, and that he wants out early from behind bars.

Rana was charged more than a decade ago with several Pakistani terror figures, all accused of helping plot this attack on Mumbai, in which more than 160 were killed.

In a Chicago courtroom where the case was tried, Rana was acquitted of the Mumbai attack but convicted of supporting the Pakistani terror group that carried it out and sentenced to 14 years.

He has been locked up at Terminal Island in Southern California - one of 644 inmates who have tested positive. That is almost 62% of the prison population and they have all been moved into special isolated housing.

Six inmates at Terminal Island have died, according to officials. In the new filing in Chicago federal court Friday, Rana's attorneys suggested he may join the list of dead if his sentence isn't cut short or he's allowed home confinement.

Calling it "wildly infectious," Rana's attorneys said the U.S. Bureau of Prisons hasn't controlled the spread of coronavirus despite a nationwide prison lockdown, beginning March 24. They said there's been a "rising curve" of sick prisoners and that the BOP is "powerless to stop the contagion."

Currently federal prisons have more than 3,000 inmates infected and almost 250 staff, with 45 inmates dead nationwide.

Latest figures at the Metro Correctional Center in Chicago's Loop total 110 inmates infected and 12 staff, with no reported deaths.

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In India, Rana, and his co-defendant Chicago terrorist David Headley, have been major news subjects since the Mumbai attack 12 years ago. But now Rana's lawyers are reminding the court that Rana wasn't convicted in any of the deaths and that his own precarious health situation - from heart problems to chronic renal failure - ought to qualify the Chicago man for "compassionate release."

Chief Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer said Friday night that she is "inclined to grant the motion" filed by Rana and has given federal prosecutors until Monday afternoon to say whether they object.

The U.S. attorney in Chicago Friday declined comment to the I-Team.

As for Terminal Island where Rana is held, a Bureau of Prisons spokesman said late Friday that it is actually No. 2 on the list of the nation's most infected U.S. prisons. Lompoc prison, also in California, tops the list currently with 792 inmates who have tested positive.
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