Chicago: The trial of Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana, who is accused with David Coleman Headley for the 26/11 terror attacks, began here with the initiation of jury selection process at a federal court house.
Rana, a 50-year-old Chicago businessman, is accused of helping his childhood friend Headley to scout targets for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for the 2008 Mumbai carnage that left 166 people, including six Americans, dead.
The trial, supposedly the most important terrorism trial ever to be held here, began yesterday with the jury selection process at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.
A total of 100 jurors filled out the questionnaire and will be questioned by US District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber.
After the jury is finalised this week, the opening arguments of the case will be presented by both sides.
Rana with his gray beard and hair and wearing spectacles was accompanied with his attorneys Patrick Blegen and Charlie Swift.
“It is the beginning of jury selection and jurors are filling out the questionnaire even as we speak,” Blegen told reporters here. “It’s the best way to select a jury.”
The questionnaire jurors will fill out has more than 60 questions. It will ask questions about Islam, and jurors’ feeling about Islam.
Swift said that since 80 per cent of Americans distrust Islam, Rana needed fair jurors.
“There is only one verdict the jury will reveal - not guilty,” Rana’s attorney, Charlie Swift said.
Swift said that the jury needed people who are ethnically and racially diverse, men, women, young, old, who could put aside their prejudice and biases.
“People hailing from India, Denmark and Pakistan would most likely be disqualified,” Blegen said.
Blegen said that Rana was handling the ongoing trial as best as he can.
“Rana is very nice and polite and is handling a difficult situation with grace and much better than I’d be handling it,” Blegen said.
Blegen said that jurors who could put aside emotions and could rule based on faith and logic were needed.
Headley is also likely to testify at the trial and will reveal how he planned to carry out the Mumbai attacks.
While Headley pleaded guilty, Rana has not.
Headley, Rana’s old friend from military school in Pakistan, claims that two years before terrorists struck the Indian port city of Mumbai, he began laying the groundwork for the attack, financed by $25,000 from an officer in Pakistan’s powerful intelligence service.
Rana, on the other hand, said that he was duped by Headley.
Blegen said that the conviction rates are high for Rana, he could overcome it.
“A lot of revelations will come forth and and will come to light during the trial,” Blegen added.
On 25 April, in a second superseding indictment, US prosecutors charged four additional men, all Pakistani residents, in the 26/11 terror attacks that left 166 dead, including six Americans.
Headley, who was originally Daood Gilani, changed and anglicised his name in order to carry out the carnage without disclosing his Pakistani identity.
Rana, who had served as a doctor in the Pakistani Army Medical Corps, before he migrated to Canada, is also accused in plotting an attack with Headley on a Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that published cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.
Rana, who was indicted by a federal grand jury under 12 counts on 15 February last year for planning the attacks, providing material support to LeT to carry out the attacks and guiding Headley in scouting targets in Mumbai in the process, is set to go on trial in Chicago on Wednesday.
Arrested in Chicago over the Mumbai attacks, Rana had claimed that he provided “material support” to 26/11 terrorists at the behest of Pakistani government and ISI.
If convicted, Rana faces a possible life sentence.