CHICAGO — A Canadian businessman accused of leading a double life as an international terrorist pleaded not guilty Monday to making plans for an attack on a Danish newspaper and helping arrange the rampage in 2008 that killed 166 people in the Indian city of Mumbai.
Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 49, a Canadian national born in Pakistan who has been a Chicago resident for more than a dozen years, intends to fight the charges, attorney Patrick Blegen said after the arraignment.
“I am optimistic that we can fight these charges and clear Mr. Rana’s name,” Blegen told reporters.
He said he will keep up the fight, futile so far, to get his soft-spoken, grey-bearded client released on bond while awaiting trial.
Rana immigrated to Canada in 1997 and became a citizen in June 2001. His friends and relatives in Canada and the United States have said they are prepared to post $1 million in bail for him.
Rana appeared in court guarded by husky marshals and wearing the bright orange jumpsuit of a federal prisoner, with leg irons that rattled when they caught momentarily on the wheel of a chair.
He politely said good morning to Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys and spelled his name for the court reporter but said little else. If convicted, he could be sent to federal prison for the rest of his life.
Rana and co-defendant David Coleman Headley, 49, an American who went to school in Pakistan, are accused of laying the groundwork for the deadly November 2008 rampage by 10 terrorists who left a trail of carnage through Mumbai. Nine were eventually killed and the tenth person accused is now in custody.
Rana and Headley are also accused of planning an attack on the Jyllands Posten newspaper, which set off weeks of protests among Muslims after publishing 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005. That attack never took place.
Prosecutors say that the alleged terrorist plans were tied to a Pakistan-based terrorist group, Lashkar e Taiba (Army of the Pure) that has been in violent conflict with the government of India over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
Two other men, retired Pakistani military officer Rehman Abdur Hashim Syed and accused terrorist leader Ilyas Kashmiri, also are charged in connection with the planned attack on the Danish newspaper. Their whereabouts are unknown, although the indictment said Kashmiri has been in Pakistan’s tribal areas, home to various terrorist groups.
Rana is specifically charged with two counts of conspiracy to provide aid to terrorism and one count of actually providing such support.
Headley, who is co-operating with federal prosecutors, faces a possible death sentence if convicted of the various charges against him. An American citizen who was born in this country but went to school in Pakistan, Headley is due to answer to the charges on Wednesday.
Blegen said at the arraignment Monday that Rana, who owns a downstate farm and an immigration service, cannot afford to pay for his defence. The attorney said he will ask U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber, who is presiding over the case, to appoint him as Rana’s government-paid counsel.
While Rana may have some money, “he doesn’t have enough to fund the defence of a large, federal criminal case and virtually nobody does,” Blegen told reporters later. He said such a trial could take months and cost a fortune.
Blegen said Rana “is a pleasant man” but is being held in an area of the Metropolitan Correctional Center reserved for troublemakers, confined “in a very small room almost 24 hours a day.”
He said that Rana cannot move within the centre without “a three-man hold” — three correctional officers to guard him.
Rana has based his First World Immigration Service company and other businesses in Chicago for more than a dozen years.
Blegen called Rana a legitimate businessman who was duped by Headley and denies the charges against him.