Terror suspect Tahawwur Hussain Rana today claimed in a bail plea that he is a Pakistani army deserter and will not be able to flee home due to fears of reprisal, but failed to get a reprieve from a US court.
The Pakistani-Canadian, arrested by the FBI in October, appeared before District Judge Matthew Kennelly but he refused to hear the plea after prosecutors said they expect an indictment by January 14, which could send the case to a different judge. He set a status hearing for January 21.
The Chicago businessman, who federal prosecutors say plotted attack on a Danish newspaper and also knew about 26/11 attack plans, contended in a motion filed in federal court that he had to desert the Pakistani Army after he developed high-altitude sickness during deployment in Northern Areas.
"Defendant's Pakistani background should raise no concerns whatsoever regarding risk of flight," the motion said, according to television channel reports.
It said while serving as a physician in the Pakistani military, he was transported to Northern Areas without proper acclimatisation and suffered from high-altitude cerebral edema which later led to high-altitude pulmonary edema.
He was granted leave to seek medical treatment and subsequently flew to England, the motion said adding, when he was denied extended leave, he had to desert the army.
"Defendant has not returned to Pakistan since, and any attempt to flee to Pakistan would be met with incarceration and court martial proceedings. As such, Defendant presents no risk of fleeing to Pakistan because to do so would only change the location of his detention," it said.
"Furthermore, the United States and Pakistan have a long standing bilateral extradition treaty, so any attempt to flee to his home country would ultimately be in vain," it said.
Assistant US Attorney Daniel Collins told Kennelly that the government has no plans to request more time to obtain an indictment against Rana, who is custody since October 18.
A Chicago court had in November last year given a 58-day extension to the FBI to file indictment against Rana by January 14.
Rana, 48, appeared in court wearing an orange jumpsuit for the hearing that lasted only a few minutes. After the judge said he would not yet decide on his bail plea, Rana was escorted by marshals to the Metropolitan Correctional Center.
Rana was denied bail by US Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan last month who said there was risk he might flee the country if released on bond to escape a possible 30-year jail term.
Rana may use his financial resources and knowledge in immigration law to flee the country, Nolan had said.
The FBI said Rana, co-conspirator of Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Headley, "knew in advance" about the 26/11 attacks after which he "complimented" the Pakistan-based terror outfit.
He is one of three men charged in the alleged plot to attack Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten in retaliation for its publication in 2005 a dozen cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, which Muslims considered offensive.
Rana's attorney Patrick Blegen has said if asked, his client would deny the charges against him.