Chicago court adjourns hearing on Rana's bail application till Dec 15

Chicago court adjourns hearing on Rana's bail application till Dec 15


In this courtroom sketch, Tahawwur Hussain Rana appears before federal Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan on Wednesday. AP

US Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan adjourned the matter after one and a half hour bail hearing during which Rana's lawyer Patrick Blegen produced three character witnesses, including his brother-in-law, described him as a "peaceful, honest, trustworthy and non-violent person who cannot talk about violence as he is a very peaceful person".

Judge Nolan, while adjourning the matter till December 15, said she would need a "week's time" to read the statement, including a five hour video of the Rana's statement FBI after his arrest in October, "if I am going to be able to be fair to both sides."

"I would like to do a good job on it... as I am the only judge that Rana has."

She also said that she needed time to study two al-Qaeda videos that were recovered from Rana's house and go through his emails with Headley that use coded messages.

Rana (48), who in an orange jumpsuit, remained silent during the hearing, in which his family members, including his parents-in-law, were also present.

During the hearing, one of the witnesses Mohammad Arshad Mirza, a local eye doctor, said he knew Rana since they were members of 'Iqbal Society', a body that exhorted Muslims to be educated and organised people and to reach their goals through non-violent, peaceful and constitutional means.

He said the cartoons of Prophet Muhammed, published in a Danish newspaper, was discussed once there and "we said that this is unfortunate, but what can one do. This is the kind of time we are living in".

Another witness Raja Muhammed Yaqoob said about 20 people including members of Rana's family met last Sunday to understand Rana's case and discuss how we can help him. "The consensus among everyone was that Rana is a trustworthy, honest and decent person".

Rana's brother-in-law Athar Akhtar deposed "he was a well-educated person and has never expressed any opinion in favour of violence. The whole family is well educated".

The witnesses said they did not have any conversation regarding Illyas Kashmiri with Rana.

Prosecutor Assistant US Attorney Dan Collins said the witnesses do not know real Rana, who maintained his relationship with Headley and talked about 'targets'. He also said Rana had arranged for Headley's travel to Denmark and other countries.

"He spent a significant amount of time with [Headley] — a lot more time than the three witnesses who were put here today," Collins said, adding they just don't know this guy the way the evidence reveals him to be.

"The word 'target' is that man's word, it came out of his mouth," he said referring to a recorded phone call.

Referring to the mention of National Defence College in the complaint against Rana, Blegen said his client assumed Headley "was talking about National Defence College in Pakistan and not National Defence College in India".

Blegen said there is no evidence that the National Defence College being referred to in the complaint is the one in India.

On Al Qaeda DVDs being found in Rana's house, Blegen said while "Headley gave these videos to Rana, Rana has not shown interest in them. Headley was giving things to Rana which he has not shown interest in. It is clear that Rana does not agree with things Headley gives him."

"The government reads terrorism into all his (Rana's) terms and most of his terms refer to business," Blegen said of the statements Rana made either on recorded phone calls or to investigators.

The prosecution mentioned that in five-hour statement that Rana gave to FBI agents, he has said he was thinking of expanding his meat business by opening a goat farm in Denmark.

He is also understood to have told agents that David Coleman Headley, another suspect arrested by FBI on charges of carrying out a major terror attack against India, admitted he received training from terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Talking to reporters after the hearing, Blegen said he feels the complaint against his client was "not as strong as the prosecution is making it out to be".

On the decision regarding the bond hearing being postponed, Blegen said it did not disturb him as "I know that Judge Nolan is going to take everything into account and is taking her time because it is a very complicated and serious case.
"Obviously I would prefer to have him out and he has been in custody for a long time but we are going to be as patient as we can be".
Blegen said he was hopeful that Rana, a Pakistan-born US-based Canadian citizen, would be released on December 15.
"I think he should be released and I know that Judge nolan will give it a great deal of thought.
It sounded to me as though Judge Nolan was indicating that she would make her ruling on that day," he added.

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