Rana trial set for tomorrow

Rana trial set for tomorrow

The arguments in the trial of 50-year-old Rana, co-accused with Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, will be heard by a 12-member jury tomorrow.

The jurors, four men and eight women, have been selected from a pool of possible 38, and sworn-in after being questioned by US District Court Judge Harry D Leinenweber about their understanding and views on Islam, citizenship and terrorism.

The jury, mostly consisting of minorities like blacks and Asians, was formed out of 100 jurors that were questioned.

Headley, an operative of LeT, a co-accused in the Mumbai trial case may spill the beans about his links with ISI during his ongoing trial.

The trial assumes significance especially as it comes in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 2.

The trial of Rana could reveal ISI's links to terrorists and any evidence of spy agency's "malfeasance" would worsen US-Pakistan relations, the New York Times reported recently.

Headley, who himself is not on trial will be the main witness against Rana, is set to recount his story of the Mumbai attack during the trial, it said.

"What he (Headley) discloses could deepen suspicions that Pakistani spies are connected to terrorists and could potentially worsen relations between Washington and Islamabad," it said.

Headley, 50, Rana's old friend from military school in Pakistan, claims that two years before terrorists struck Mumbai, he began laying the groundwork for the attack, financed by USD 25,000 from an officer in Pakistan's powerful intelligence service.

Headley had told Indian investigators that the officer, known only as Major Iqbal, "listened to my entire plan to attack India." Another officer with the intelligence service, the ISI Directorate, "assured me of the financial help," the Times said.

Pakistan has been dismissing Headley's accusations against the ISI as little more than a desperate performance by a man hoping to avoid the death penalty.

Rana, who was indicted by a federal grand jury under 12 counts on February 15 last year for planning the attacks, providing material support to LeT to carry out the attacks and guiding Headley in scouting targets in Mumbai in the process.

Arrested in Chicago over the Mumbai attacks, Rana had claimed that he provided "material support" to 26/11 terrorists at the behest of Pakistani government and ISI.
If convicted, Rana faces a possible life sentence. While Headley has pleaded guilty, Rana has not pleaded guilty.