Tahawwur Hussain Rana, the Pakistani-Canadian accused in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks case, has claimed before a court here that he provided “material support” to the terrorists at the behest of the Pakistan government and its spy agency ISI and not the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Rana, in his defence, which is to be produced before the court here, said his “alleged illegal acts of providing material support to terrorists were done at the behest of the Pakistani government and the ISI, not the Lashkar terrorist organisation,” according to court documents.
The documents have been published by Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail ahead of Rana's trial that is set to begin on May 16.
They reveal that Rana, in his defence, which was struck down by the Illinois court, said: “The ISI has authority to act in India to protect Pakistan's national interests.”
Trying to invoke “Public Authority Defence” wherein a defendant tries to find shelter under the arguments that his acts were done at the behest of a government, Rana claimed he “acted under the authority — whether actual or apparent — of the Pakistani government and the ISI.”
Rana also relied on the grand jury testimony of the co-accused LeT operative David Headley, likely to appear as witness against him, who claimed involvement of one Major Iqbal in funding the terror attacks.
“Therefore, he contends, he relied on a public authority, one that he argues is immune from criminal prosecution in U.S. courts under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ... when he engaged in activities such as allowing Headley to open a First World Immigration office in Mumbai,” the order of Judge Harry D Leinenweber said.
The court rejected arguments put forth by Rana saying that “the Pakistani government and ISI officials sanctioned his violations of U.S. Federal law is objectively unreasonable ... Defendant acted not in Pakistan or India, but rather in United States.”
“He cited no authority holding that a foreign government official can sanction an individual living and acting in the United States to violate U.S. federal law,” the court said.
49-year-old Rana is accused of helping Headley in setting up his office in Mumbai which the latter used as cover for his trips to the city for identifying targets.
“The process of seating jurors for the trial has begun,” U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber said at the hearing on Monday.
While 50-year-old Headley, a U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty on March 18 last year, Rana, a Chicago businessman, has pleaded not guilty.
Rana, clad in an orange jumpsuit, sporting a grey beard, appeared in court, looking around partly smiling and smirking.
The next hearing is scheduled for April 26.