Chicago, Jan 18 (IANS) Pakistan-born Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana was Thursday sentenced to 14 years in jail followed by five years of supervised release for providing support to Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that staged the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
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.
They also said 52-year-old Rana is a "kind", "compassionate" family man with no prior history of violence and no criminal record and so should get no more than 10 years prison time.
But 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 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.