CHICAGO, US: A US jury Thursday cleared a Pakistan-born businessman of involvement in the 2008 Mumbai siege, but found him guilty of supporting a banned Pakistani militant group and helping an aborted attack on a Danish newspaper.
Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 50, was found not guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to the 2008 attacks in Mumbai in which 166 people were killed, and which carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
But after two days of deliberations, the jury found the Chicago businessman guilty of providing material support to the banned Pakistan militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
He was also found guilty of providing material support to a plot to bomb a Danish newspaper which had published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed deemed to be offensive by Muslims.
Rana, who is also a Canadian citizen, is likely to face stiff jail terms when it comes to sentencing, but his lawyer said he planned to appeal.
“He is obviously disappointed,” defense lawyer Charles Swift said, adding: “I think he’s in shock.”
During the trial which opened on May 23, the court heard that Rana’s close friend, David Coleman Headley, who he had met at military school in Pakistan, had used his immigrant business as a cover to plot an attack in Denmark.
Muslims had been angered when the Jyllands-Posten newspaper had published the controversial cartoons of Mohammed.
Headley told the federal court in Chicago that since 2009 he had carried out detailed video surveillance of the Danish newspaper and the Danish capital, Copenhagen.
Five video clips played by the prosecution showed general shots of King’s Square in the heart of the Danish capital, as well as the glass frontage of the newspaper’s offices and a back alley.
Headley specifically shot images of a parade of Danish soldiers dressed in ceremonial gear and carrying weapons.
Headley, who has admitted to 12 charges stemming from the Mumbai attacks, has been cooperating with prosecutors since his 2009 arrest at a Chicago airport and was the star witness during the trial.
The plot on Copenhagen was eventually aborted, because of the intense pressure in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, and due to a lack of funds, weapons and manpower.
Rana’s lawyers insisted throughout the trial that he is a pacifist who was “duped” into letting his old friend use his company as a cover for his scouting missions.
The trial has been being closely watched as it touched on alleged Pakistani military intelligence collusion with terrorism — a hugely sensitive issue after Osama bin Laden’s killing sparked similar US charges.
Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency has long been suspected of involvement in the Mumbai attacks and three ISI agents were named as co-conspirators by US prosecutors.
Headley testified that he believed the ISI’s involvement in the Mumbai plot was limited to a handful of rogue agents, but that he believed the ISI worked closely with the LeT.
The Mumbai attacks stalled a fragile four-year peace process between India and Pakistan, two South Asian neighbors and nuclear-armed rivals, which was only resumed in February.