In what might be the most-watched terrorism case of the year, a United States federal judge on Wednesday selected 12 jurors — eight women and four men — for the trial of Tahawwur Rana, alleged conspirator in the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks. After reviewing 29 possible choices from a list of 53 individuals, Judge Harry Leinenweber also selected six alternatives for his Chicago court.
Rana, a Canadian national of Pakistani descent, is in the dock over allegations that he aided David Headley, the purported mastermind of the deadly attack that killed over 160 people. He was said to have allowed Headley to use his immigration firm as a front for Headley's surveillance activities in Mumbai before the attacks.
Headley, who was arrested in October 2009, entered into a plea bargain agreement with federal authorities last year in a bid to avoid the death penalty. He will be a principal prosecution witness in the Rana case and his testimony is also expected to highlight links between the Lashkar-e-Taiba and an official of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, Major Iqbal.
This week's jury selection came after days spent vetting potential candidates, following which Judge Leinenweber said to the jurors: “You are not to discuss this case among yourselves until all the evidence is in,” adding that they were not to discuss it with friends and family or do independent research on the Internet.
The composition of the jury was immediately welcomed by Rana's legal team. His attorney Charlie Swift said: “I believe we got a jury of Mr. Rana's peers, people who can understand Mr. Rana's position as an immigrant... as a minority in his community and as a businessman and a family man.”
Judge Leinenweber cautioned that despite heightened sensitivities and fears in regard to foreign terrorism following the 9/11 attacks, “jurors cannot face a situation in which they deliberate in fear that their verdict may subject them or their family to any form of retaliation.”