14 years jail for Mumbai terror suspect Tahawwur Rana

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Chicago, Jan 18 (IANS) Pakistan-born Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana was Thursday sentenced to 14 years in jail for providing support to Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that staged the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

The jail term for Rana will be followed by five years of supervised release.

Although Rana, a boyhood friend of LeT operative David Coleman Headley, was acquitted of supporting the Mumbai attacks, prosecutors had sought the maximum 30-year sentence for his role in the aborted plot to attack Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten for publishing cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

Rana's lawyers, downplaying his role in the Danish scheme, sought a lighter sentence of no more than nine years, citing his poor health.

They argued Rana was kept in the dark about much of the plot. Headley, they said was a master manipulator who fooled Rana into supporting his terror activities.

But Judge Harry Leinenweber said he was baffled at the descriptions put forward by his family of Rana as a kind, caring person, saying it was so "contrary" to the person who aided the plot on the Danish newspaper's office.

"On the one hand we have a very intelligent person who is capable of providing assistance to many people," the judge said just before announcing sentence.

"But what is difficult to understand is: a person with that intelligence and that background and history of helping others ... how that type of person could get sucked into a dastardly plot that was proposed."

In new evidence submitted before the hearing, prosecutors sought to undercut the depiction of Rana as a dupe by presenting a telephone intercept of Rana's wife, saying that her husband and Headley were just alike and were both immersed in Islamic extremism.

Headley, son of a Pakistani father and an American mother, who changed his given name of Dawood Gilani to scout targets in Mumbai without arousing suspicion, pleaded guilty in both the Mumbai and Danish terrorism plots, and was the star prosecution witness at Rana's trial.

Headley would be sentenced a week later Jan 24.

A Chicago jury convicted Rana in June 2011 on the charges of providing Headley cover as an employee of his immigration business to scout targets in Mumbai and the newspaper office in Copenhagen.

In court filings this week, federal prosecutors described the alleged Danish plot involving beheading newspaper employees and depositing their heads onto Copenhagen streets as "murder on a grand, horrific scale".

Prosecutors said Rana, who lived in Chicago and owned a Northwest Side immigration and travel service, operated the business as a front for funnelling terrorist money overseas.