A Chicago court has selected 12 jurors and six alternates for the trial of Pakistani-born Tahawwur Hussain Rana charged with aiding Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in the November 2008 Mumbai attack.
The panel of eight women and four men, plus four male and two female alternates, was sworn in Wednesday before US District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber, capping a three-day selection process. The court ordered that identities not be disclosed publicly for their safety.
"You are not to discuss this case among yourselves until all the evidence is in," Leinenweber admonished the jurors. He also told them not to discuss it with friends and family or do independent research on the Internet.
"After Sep. 11, 2011, residents of the US have heightened sensitivities and fears in regard to foreign terrorism," the judge said. "Jurors cannot face a situation in which they deliberate in fear that their verdict may subject them or their family to any form of retaliation."
He later directed that the court furnish them with "any and all necessary meals" for the duration of the trial.
Opening statements are scheduled for May 23.
A Canadian citizen, Rana, 50, who runs an immigration services business with offices in Chicago, New York and Toronto, has been charged with providing a cover to his Pakistani-American high school friend David Coleman Headley for scouting targets for the Mumbai terrorist attack,
Headley, son of a Pakistani diplomat and an American mother, who changed his given name of Daood Gilani to scout targets for Mumbai attack without arousing suspicion, is expected to be the star prosecution witness against his former pal.
Headley, who has pleaded guilty to 12 terrorism related counts to avoid the death penalty, is reported to have told Indian investigators during questioning in Chicago last year, about how Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was deeply involved in planning the Mumbai attacks.
"Rana's only crime was to be friends with David Headley," his lawyer Charlie Swift told reporters after Wednesday's court proceedings.
His client had done nothing to actively support the terror plots to attack Mumbai and a Danish newspaper which had published cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, he said.