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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Chicago Rana Trial: The Rana trial has served its purpose!

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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 8, Issue 25, Dated 25 June 2011.

 Sushant Sareen
Sushant Sareen is Consultant, Pakistan Project, IDSA.

The US court may have acquitted him in the 26/11 case but has nailed ISI’s use of terror

Photo: AP
CONSIDERING THAT Tahawwur Rana, a Pakistaniorigin Canadian national could face up to 30 years in prison after a Chicago court found him guilty of having links with the Pakistan-based terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and plotting a terror attack against a Danish newspaper, the carping noises being heard in India over his acquittal on the charge of facilitating the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai sound somewhat incongruous. Rana being found guilty of involvement in 26/11 would not have made it any easier to punish the real masterminds of that outrage, all of whom are comfortably ensconced in Pakistan, some inside jail from where they are conducting their murderous business and others strutting about freely, making hate speeches against India and praying for the soul of Osama bin Laden in public meetings. Nor for that matter is Rana’s acquittal going to be a setback in bringing to justice those who planned and directed that barbaric attack. To put it quite simply, the Rana trial is not really material to the larger 26/11 case.

Rana was at best a bit player in 26/11, who ostensibly was motivated by two factors: one, he believed that by helping the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) spy on India he would be able to make amends for his desertion from the Pakistan Army; and second, he probably thought that aiding the LeT in the massacre of kafirs (infidels) would earn him some sawab (rewards in the afterlife). His being indicted for involvement in the 26/11 attacks was more of an afterthought, because originally he was arrested for being part of a terrorist conspiracy to attack the Danish newspaper that had published caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. It was only the confessional statement of David Headley that implicated Rana in the 26/11 conspiracy. But the corroborative evidence that was required to back Headley’s testimony was just not adequate for a jury to pronounce the guilty verdict on Rana.

The reaction in India to Rana’s acquittal in the 26/11 case has, however, been quite over the top. Not only does it smack of an utter lack of understanding of law and procedure, it is even devoid of basic common sense. It is one thing for Indian officials to express ‘disappointment’ over Rana’s acquittal, and quite another for them to contemplate filing a chargesheet against both Rana and Headley. Leave aside the fact that it will be practically impossible to secure the extradition of these two characters, there is also the principle of ‘double jeopardy’ that will come into play if these two men are to be tried in India on practically the same charges for which they were tried in the US. But let us, for a moment, assume that India does get hold of these two guys and the issue of ‘double jeopardy’ is not applicable. What, pray, is the new evidence that Indian law enforcement agencies have collected against them (which presumably the American prosecutors did not have) that will stand up in a court of law to convict these two?

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