CHICAGO — A Canadian citizen accused of helping plot a terrorist attack in Denmark was refused bail on Tuesday, the day after federal prosecutors alleged he knew of last year’s terrorist siege on Mumbai days in advance and even sang the praises of its perpetrators.
Tahawwur Rana, 48, who emigrated to Canada from Pakistan in 1997 but has been based in Chicago for more than a decade, will remain behind bars after U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan cited his strong ties to Canada in ruling that he posed a significant flight risk.
Rana is a Canadian citizen, has a Canadian passport and owns property in Canada, Nolan said in explaining her decision. Those close links to Canada, she ruled, combined with Rana’s business know-how about immigration issues, presented too much of a flight risk to allow him out of jail.
Rana is charged with helping David Coleman Headley, an old friend from their military school days in Pakistan, plot an attack on a Danish newspaper and murder an editor and a cartoonist responsible for publishing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. The cartoon’s publication in 2005 sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world.
Rana, who owns an immigration consulting firm in Toronto and a home in Ottawa, appeared in court looking significantly thinner than when he was first arrested in October.
Bearded, bespectacled and wearing orange prison coveralls, he waved at his wife and three other family members during his bail hearing. They left the court shortly after the decision without comment.
Rana hasn’t been charged in the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people in November 2008. But prosecutors allege in court documents filed on the eve of Rana’s bail hearing that he had discussed his prior knowledge of the 60-hour siege on the Indian city in a recorded conversation with Headley in September.
Headley, who changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006, was charged last week in the Mumbai siege. He’s accused of spending two years staking out the city ahead of the attacks that targeted luxury hotels, restaurants, a railway station and a Jewish centre.
“Rana was told of the attacks before they happened and offered compliments and congratulations to those who carried them out afterwards,” assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Collins wrote in the court filing.
“It is clear from the conversation and extrinsic corroboration that Rana was told just days before the Mumbai attacks that the attacks were about to happen.”
Rana’s lawyer, Patrick Blegen, told Nolan on Tuesday that the transcript of that conversation was preliminary, and much of what he said about Mumbai was taken out of context.
“There is clarity here, judge, that shows he was talking about Mumbai when he offered those compliments,” Collins said.
The filing also alleges that in the same conversation, Rana and Headley discussed possible attacks on other sites in India.
Headley, 49, is accused of using Rana’s immigration company as a cover for his surveillance activities in India and Denmark. Rana has insisted he was “duped” by his friend and knew nothing of any terror plots.
Blegen had argued his client posed no risk because friends and family were willing to put up six homes in the United States, and combined with other funds, Rana could have posted about US$1 million in bail.
After sitting down with his client for about a half hour after the ruling, Blegen reported Rana was in relatively good spirits “in light of the circumstances.”
Nolan offered Rana something of a pep talk after announcing her decision.
“I’m sure you’re disappointed but I want you to keep doing the best that you’re doing,” she said.
Headley, said to be co-operating with authorities, hasn’t yet had a bail hearing.