What next in Headley and Rana case

  • Anirudh Bhattacharyya & HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi & New York
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  • Updated: Dec 15, 2009 23:41 IST

What happens to Tahawwur Rana now?

The evidence filed on Monday in Chicago means that David Coleman Headley's co-conspirator Tahawwur Rana will find his charges upgraded. He'll now be charged with a direct link to a terror conspiracy, which can lead to life imprisonment.

Earlier charges carried a maximum sentence of 15 years.

Some are speculating that having trapped Headley and turned him approver, the prosecution will use the 26/11 link in Monday's memorandum to do the same with Rana. He clearly dealt with retired Pakistani army officer Abdur Rehman Hasim Syed, alias "Pasha", a conduit to Ilyas Kashmiri, one of Pakistan's most-wanted terrorists. US may be more interested in forcing Rana, who ran an immigration service, to tell them if he used it to facilitate the movements of terrorists, and who and where they are.

Was Headley working for the FBI when he talked with Rana?

No one knows when Headley agreed to cooperate. He was first suspected in August, arrested in the first week of October and charged on October 20. The taped conversation was done in September.

Counter-terrorism expert and ex-R&AW (Research and Analysis Wing) analyst B. Raman wonders why, though Headley and Rana's 26/11 link was known since September 2008, it's only mentioned in the second set of charges against Headley and the Monday filing against Rana.

The report against Headley doesn't mention that he'll face trial — as one would expect with an approver and former agent of the US Drug Enforcement Agency, he says. Filing against Rana, however, specifically speaks of "further support of the motion to detain defendant Rana pending trial".

Will India get access to Headley or Rana?
Headley's situation is being described as "unusual". This may be the first time an American is being tried in a US court while being accused of terrorist crimes committed or planned in other nations. "Going by experience, if a person is convicted in a US court, it's expected that he serve the sentence in the US before extradition can be considered," said a source.

Raman says it's natural for the FBI to resist Indian demand for access to Headley. "Any professional intelligence or investigation agency will, if it is worth its salt." Deniability is an important operational principle followed by intelligence agencies. "It's unrealistic to expect that any US agency…will grant their Indian counterparts free access to their sources."

Interrogation of Rana may be allowed. "Provided he is questioned in the presence of FBI officers and the questions are vetted… the court allows it."

 (Anirudh Bhattacharyya in New York & HTC, New Delhi)


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