Chicago: Tahawwur Rana, an accomplice of Mumbai attack terrorist David Headley, was on Friday sentenced to 14 years in jail followed by five years of supervised release for providing material support to Pakistan-based LeT and for backing a "dastardly" plot to attack a Danish newspaper. The US District Judge Harry D Leinenweber gave his order after hearing from both the government attorney and those of 52-year-old Rana, during which the two argued on the length of imprisonment.
The last minute arguments lasted for more than an hour and half before the judge noted "This certainly was a dastardly plot".
The Defence had sought a lighter sentence of about nine years citing the Pakistani-Canadian's poor health while the Prosecution wanted a 30-year jail term.
"Based upon presiding over the trial and reading over the material that has been provided to me, we have on one hand a very intelligent person capable and willing to provide assistance to many people.”
"What is difficult to understand how that kind of person is sucked into a ghastly plot that was proposed to go into the private office of a newspaper," the judge said.
He added: "It seems to me that people who are determined to carry out terrorist activity really do not care about what is going to happen to them. As long as Rana is in custody he is personally deterred from any personal such activity.
"Providing a long sentence would make sure that Rana does not get involved in any kind of terrorist activity in the future". Reacting to the verdict, the Prosecution said they were "pleased".
Rana was convicted of conspiracy to provide material support to a plot from October 2008 to October 2009 to commit murder in Denmark, including a horrific plan to behead employees of Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, and throw their heads on to the street in Copenhagen, as well as providing material support, from late 2005 to October 2009, to LeT, US Attorney's Office, Chicago said.
"This serious prison sentence should go a long way towards convincing would-be terrorists that they can't hide behind the scenes, lend support to the violent aims of terrorist organisations, and escape detection and punishment," said Gary S Shapiro, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
Earlier the judge said that the whole idea that Headley was sent to Copenhagen to place an ad in a newspaper when one can do it simply over computer from here, shows that "the crime is serious" and noted Rana assisted Headley in going to Denmark for such a plot.
The Assistant US Attorney government attorney Daniel Collins said that "terrorism enhancement" be taken into consideration for sentencing and pleaded for "severe sentence" for Rana.
Peter Blegan, Rana's attorney, argued that it is not applicable and claimed that the argument made by the government attorney is factually inaccurate.
"The court finds that terrorism enhancement does not apply under the current terrorism act," judge Leinenweber said.
"This seems clear to me that the planned attack was on a private company on a private property...we had a plot to invade a private newspaper and a private property... This certainly was a dastardly plot," he noted.
Rana, who use to run a visa service agency that helped Headley, was brought to the court in an orange jump suit several minutes after scheduled sentencing hearing at 10 AM local Chicago time.
Gray haired Rana appeared calm, but weak. His wife could not be present as she was denied entry into the US from Canada by immigration authorities, Blegan said.
One of his sons was also not present as he was in college. However, a number of his other family members were present during the sentencing hearing, which was jam packed with a battery of reporters representing both the Indian and US media.
Judge Leinenweber said he has read and reviewed the positions of both the government and those of the Rana attorney.
He said he has also received letters of recommendations in favor of Rana from his family, friends and other members of the society.
Tahawwur Rana case: Timeline
October 18, 2009: FBI arrests 48-year-old Tahawwur Rana, a resident of Chicago and an accomplice of Mumbai attacks accused David Headley.
October 27, 2009: FBI files affidavit in a Chicago court alleging that Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba was planning to use Headley and Rana to carry out terror attacks against India and Danish newspaper 'Jyllands-Posten'.
November 30, 2009: Rana categorically denies any involvement in the Mumbai attacks.
January 26, 2010: Rana pleads not guilty to the charges of helping arrange the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and making plans for an attack on the Danish newspaper.
February 9, 2010: Rana seeks date from Chicago court for a pretrial conference to ensure a fair and expeditious trial for him.
March 11, 2010: Chicago court turns down the bail plea of Rana, saying the Pakistani-Canadian is charged with "very serious crimes" which give him a motive to flee.
March 30, 2010: Tahawwur Rana's lawyer says his client will not change his 'not guilty plea' and will face trial.
April 28, 2010: The US prosecutors rejects Rana's demand for more details on his involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks, saying they have already provided "more than sufficient" information in the form of over 20,000 documents to him to prepare his defence.
August 25, 2010: The status hearing of Rana adjourned.
December 13, 2010: Rana's case hearing cancelled though his trial is set for February next year.
January 7, 2011: The trial of Rana postponed from February 14 to May 16 at the request of defence.
January 11, 2011: Fearing danger from terror groups and possible media harassment, US federal prosecutors demand the jurors' identities to remain anonymous in Rana's trial.
May 16, 2011: The trial of Rana begins with the jury selection process at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago.
May 23, 2011: The hearing in Rana's case commenced with the prosecution saying the Pakistani-Canadian provided cover in the terror plot for his longtime friend Headley who took photos and videos of targets in Mumbai before the carnage.
May 24, 2011: Mumbai attacks accused Headley testifies before Chicago court that Pakistani spy agency ISI and its operatives like Major Iqbal and LeT founder Hafiz Saeed had helped him in laying the groundwork for the 26/11 attacks.
June 7, 2011: The defence for Rana rests its case after calling two witnesses but the Pakistani-Canadian himself did not testify.
June 7, 2011: Prosecution screens a video in the court of FBI interrogation of Rana in which he told FBI that Pakistan's spy agency ISI gives weapons to terrorists when they are about to enter the Indian territory.
June 10, 2011: Tahawwur Rana held not guilty on charges of involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks by a US federal court which convicted him for providing material support to Pakistan-based terror group LeT and for plotting an attack in Denmark.
Chicago: Tahawwur Rana, an accomplice of Mumbai attack terrorist David Headley, was on Friday sentenced to 14 years in jail followed by five years of supervised release for providing material support to Pakistan-based LeT and for backing a "dastardly" plot to attack a Danish newspaper.
The US District Judge Harry D Leinenweber gave his order after hearing from both the government attorney and those of 52-year-old Rana, during which the two argued on the length of imprisonment.