Bond decision put over for Canadian terror suspect
A United States judge said Wednesday she needs more information before she can decide if a Canadian businessman charged with helping to plot terrorist attacks against a Danish newspaper can be freed on bond while he awaits trial.
Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan spoke to the case of Tahawwur Hussain Rana during a bond hearing Wednesday morning. Rana has been held in custody since Oct. 18, when he was arrested at his Chicago home by members of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Rana, 48, and David Coleman Headley, 49, of Chicago are charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorism conspiracy, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Collins told court Wednesday that Rana is a danger to the community and might flee if he is let out of custody pending trial.
Rana's defence lawyer, Patrick Blegen, said Rana is not a flight risk because he lacks the funds needed to live underground. He also argued that his client may have been deceived by his alleged co-conspirator.
Rana appeared in court wearing an orange jumpsuit, glasses and a thick beard. He did not speak to the judge.
Nolan scheduled another hearing for next Tuesday, though she said she will likely not decide on bond at that time.
In other developments Wednesday, authorities amended the complaint against Rana, adding a charge of providing material support to terrorism. The new charge carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, Blegen said.
U.S. authorities allege Rana helped make travel arrangements for Headley, who went to Denmark in January and July to conduct surveillance on potential targets, including the offices of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
In 2005, the newspaper published a series of controversial editorial cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, which sparked outrage among Muslims around the world. Depictions of the prophet are forbidden by Islamic law.
Officials allege that Headley reported and attempted to report on his activities to individuals with ties to terrorism, including one person linked to al Qaeda.
They say Headley communicated with Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani terror leader, as well as a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani terror organization that is believed to be responsible for a number of terrorist attacks, including the hotel bombings in Mumbai in November 2008.
Terrorism expert Thomas Quiggin, of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies, says the alleged connection to Lashkar-e-Taiba is particularly troubling, given its rise as one of the major terror threats in the world today.
"It was a group initially formed, perhaps surprisingly, by the Pakistan ISI, the Interservices Intelligence Agency," Quiggin told CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday. "However, the ISI had probably lost control of Lashkar-e-Taiba years ago. It's now become a full-fledged terrorist group with the main aim of provoking a confrontation between India and Pakistan in order to establish their control over the Kashmir area. A very dangerous group."
Authorities say Headley described the plans for the attacks to contacts in Pakistan as "the Mickey Mouse Project."
Headley, a U.S. citizen who changed his name from Daood Gilani, also faces charges of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts involving murder and maiming outside the United States. He could receive a life sentence if convicted.
He has been in custody since Oct. 3, when he was arrested by FBI officials at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. His bond hearing is scheduled for Dec. 4.
According to Quiggin, who has read the formal FBI complaint, the case against the two men "appears quite strong."
The FBI's main partner in the case is the PET, the Danish intelligence service, which "has a reputation for being quite solid and quite strong," Quiggin said.
And the email evidence against Rana, which is contained in the complaint, appears to show his heavy involvement in the plot.
"Based on work that I was doing when I was working in Singapore we were able to establish a methodology of how to look at email traffic and decide if someone is a leader in a plot, or perhaps a first-tier follower, a second-tier follower, or perhaps just a wannabe," Quiggin said. "Using that methodology and applying it to Mr. Rana's case, it's quite clear that he's what we might call a first-tier follower very directly involved in what appears to be quite a serious plot."
Rana, a Canadian citizen who was born in Pakistan, "is the owner of several businesses including First World Immigration Services, which has offices in Chicago, New York and Canada," according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. His Canadian office is located in Toronto.
Rana also owns a farm in Kinsman, Ill., as well as a grocery store in Chicago. He resides primarily in Chicago.
The FBI says Rana and Headley attended school together in Pakistan.
With files from The Associated Press