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26/11 terror trial winding down

world Updated: Jun 03, 2011 02:11 IST
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The verdict in the trial of Tahawwur Hussain Rana, co-accused in the Mumbai terror attacks, is likely to come in earlier than expected as the Chicago businessman is unlikely to testify at his own trial.

Rana’s Attorney Patrick Blegen said Rana’s defence team was still making a final decision, but that it was unlikely Rana would take the stand.

The case proceeded quickly after David Headley, a Pakistani-American and the main witness, wrapped up his testimony after five days of questioning by the prosecution and defence lawyers of Rana in a Chicago court.

Prosecutors called seven witnesses on Wednesday, including five FBI agents who verified e-mail and phone communication between Rana, Headley, and Major Iqbal, believed to be an ISI officer. Rana was communicating through e-mails with Major Iqbal of ISI.

An e-mail sent from a Chaudhery Khan, another name for Major Iqbal, from chaudherykhan@yahoo.com in which he gave his mobile number for future contacts was shown in court by prosecutor Sarah Streicker.

Another e-mail from tahawwur@yahoo.com in which Rana booked Headley’s flight on December 8, 2008, from New York to Chicago with a stop at Atlanta. US District Court Judge Harry D Leinenweber said the case proceeded quickly partly because both the government and defence had no problems with the stipulation.

A stipulation is an agreement between opposing parties prior to a pending hearing or trial when both parties stipulate to certain facts and therefore do not argue those facts.

The judge adjourned the hearing until Monday. “We’re fairly close to the end of the case,” Leinenweber said. “We’re going to suspend now until Monday, 9.30am,” he added.

On Monday, the last of the witnesses will be presented. The trial will resume with testimonies from Rana’s witnesses among others. Final arguments will be on Tuesday and deliberations are scheduled for on the same day. The jury will deliberate after weighing in the pros and cons and given information and arguments to evaluate.

The jury could come up with a verdict whether Rana is guilty or not as early as Wednesday. At the start of the trial, Leinenweber had said that the trial would tentatively end by June 15. Rana was indicted by a federal grand jury under 12 counts on February 15, 2010, for planning out the attacks, providing material support to Lashkar to carry out the bombings, and guiding Headley in scouting targets in Mumbai.

In an e-mail, shown in the court, Rana wrote to one Syed Nomar that he got business cards printed for himself and Headley showing him as an immigration consultant of First World Immigration.

Streicker also pulled up Rana’s wife Samraz’s phone records in which the latter had received calls from a “Dave” — nickname for Headley, and Balaji another name for Major Iqbal displaying the same cell number above.

FBI special agent David Maze testified that the phone records had been verified. A transcript of a call in which Rana spoke to Pasha (Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed) — a trusted friend of Headley and Rana and a retired major from the Pakistani Army — shows they discussed visas. Pasha had connected Headley to al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri.