Rana sentence a tough message for would-be terrorists: US prosecutor

Chicago, Jan 18 (IANS) As Pakistan born Tahawwur Hussain Rana was sentenced to 14 years in prison for providing material support to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a top US prosecutor said it should send a tough message to would-be terrorists.

Although Rana, 52, a boyhood friend of LeT operative David Coleman Headley, was acquitted of a role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, he was convicted of supporting LeT in the aborted plot to attack Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten for publishing cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

"This certainly was a dastardly plot," US District Judge Harry Leinenweber said Thursday in imposing the sentence of 14 years in jail followed by five years of supervised release on the Chicago businessman, a naturalised Canadian citizen.

"This serious prison sentence should go a long way towards convincing would-be terrorists that they can't hide behind the scenes, lend support to the violent aims of terrorist organizations, and escape detection and punishment," said Gary S. Shapiro, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

"Today's sentence demonstrates that, just as vigorously as we pursue terrorists and their organizations, we will also pursue those who facilitate their violent plots from a safe distance.

"As established at trial, Tahawwur Rana provided critical support to David Headley and other terrorists from his base in the United States, knowing they were plotting attacks overseas," he said

Headley, 52, pleaded guilty in March 2010 to 12 terrorism charges, including aiding and abetting the murders of the six Americans in Mumbai.

Son of a Pakistani father and an American mother, Headley who changed his given name of Dawood Gilani to scout targets in Mumbai without arousing suspicion, was the star prosecution witness at Rana's trial.

Scheduled to be sentenced next Thursday, he is facing a maximum of life in prison though his plea deal spares him from the death penalty.

The evidence at Rana's trial showed that he knew he was assisting a terrorist organization and murderers, knew their violent goals, and readily agreed to play an essential role in achieving their aims, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors contended that Rana knew that the goal of LeT was to retaliate against and influence the Indian and Danish governments and intended that the support he provided - enabling Headley's activities - would be used toward that purpose.

In a post-arrest statement in October 2009, Rana admitted knowing that LeT was a terrorist organization and that Headley had attended training camps that LeT operated in Pakistan.

Headley testified that he attended the training camps on five separate occasions between 2002 and 2005.

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