I-Team

Government, defense clash in terror trial closings

Tuesday, June 07, 2011
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One of the world's deadliest terror attacks was executed with the full knowledge, approval and praise of a Chicago businessman, jurors in the federal case against Tahawwur Rana were told Tuesday by a federal prosecutor during her closing argument.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Victoria Peters said that Rana, 50, knowingly played a back-up and support role to admitted Pakistani terrorist David Coleman Headley by providing Headley with money, false identification and other cover during the ramp-up to the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed about 160 people, including six Americans.

After several weeks of testimony, this case is headed to the jury. Late Tuesday afternoon, the judge gave jurors instructions before they deliberate on this case that pitted the government in a clash with defense lawyers. The Jury will start deliberating Wednesday morning.

Rana and Headley are Pakistani natives and boyhood friends. They were arrested in 2009. "Rana was not a dupe, he was not a fool," prosecutor Peters said in her closing today. "He knows exactly who David Headley is and what David Headley is about, and he fully approves." Peters posed this question to jurors: "Does the evidence corroborate Headley's testimony?" She told then that it does. "When you look at Headley's testimony you'll find it was corroborated over and over" she said.

She told the jury, that is anonymous due to security concerns, that "If Headley was really duping Rana in the attacks, he wouldn't give Rana the least bit of information about the attacks. . . but over and over again Headley tells Rana about his (Headley's) support of terrorists" Peters said.

"You hear Rana repeatedly voicing his support for terrorists&Rana is no dupe" she reiterated. "Rana helped Headley in Mumbai. . . and Denmark" she said, referring to the planned attacks on Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, the Copenhagen newspaper that printed inflammatory cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 2005.

Posing as an agent of Rana's Chicago immigration-aid firm, Headley traveled to Denmark to place an ad in the newspaper. Peters told jurors that he was actually interested in learning the newspaper's layout for an assault. She asked the jury to consider what other reason Rana and Headley would have had to patronize a newspaper that was known around the world for insulting Muslims.

"It was not a 'Hail Mary pass'," Peters said of Headley's plea bargain in which he traded cooperation and testimony for exemption from the death penalty. "Did he (Headley) try to protect Rana?" she asked.

"Absolutely," she said, but added that "when Headley learned Rana was under arrest he came clean."

Peters told the jury that Headley is indeed trying to avoid the death penalty by cooperating-and said the government will recommend he received a reduced sentence-but she maintains that "no one can seriously doubt the value of the information he provided."

"Headley is a life-long manipulator, con man" Rana's lawyer Patrick Blegen fired back at the beginning of his closing argument.

He recited the essence of the defense contention that Rana was indeed an unwilling dupe of his old friend David Headley and that Rana was not told the truth. "Ignorance is not knowledge" Blegen said.

Not only did Headley think that he could fool the FBI, Blegen said "he thinks he can fool everyone... he thinks he can fool everyone but he can't fool you" Blegen told jurors.

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