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Updated: May 19, 2011 08:27 IST

Jury selection continues in Rana trial

PTI
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In this file courtroom sketch Tahawwur Hussain Rana listens as a government attorney argues before a federal judge in Chicago.
AP In this file courtroom sketch Tahawwur Hussain Rana listens as a government attorney argues before a federal judge in Chicago.

Over 50 potential jurors were questioned in Chicago in the trial of Tahawwur Rana, the Pakistani-Canadian co-accused in the Mumbai attack case, with more than 20 excused by a judge who examined them on their views about terrorism and Islam.

Out of 53 jurors, 29 were selected after Judge Harry D. Leinenweber cross-questioned the jurors one by one.

As jury selection continued at Mr. Rana’s trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, about 21 jurors were excused because some said outright that they viewed terrorism as a negative thing and could not judge fairly.

Mr. Rana, 50, dressed in a brownish gray suit with grey hair and beard, wearing spectacles, sat with his attorneys Patrick Blegen and Charlie Swift.

Mr. Rana laughed in between the cross-questioning, was in a good mood, and seemed to listen to the jurors intently.

“He (Mr. Rana) has left the acceptability of potential jurors to us,” Mr. Blegen said after the jury questioning.

“We’ve made good progress... slow, but good,” Mr. Blegen told reporters here of the jury selection process.

Twelve jurors and six alternates will be chosen from a total of 100 jurors who will be questioned.

The prosecution has the chance for six peremptory challenges and defence has 10.

“We’re pleased that jurors were truthful and forthcoming,” Mr. Blegen said.

“The jury was a cross-section of the American people, some of whom are mad at the American government,” Mr. Swift said.

The attorneys said that the recent death of Osama bin Laden would not have an impact on the trial.

“We’ll be able to select enough jurors by tomorrow,” Mr. Blegen informed.

The trial is expected to unfold revelations about Pakistan’s ISI and the attorneys said they were looking for fair jurors who would apply fact and logic and leave emotion aside.

Jurors were not scientific or had a hunch but they applied a lot of feelings to their views about Islam and their understanding of terrorism that Judge Leinenweber asked them about.

About 21 jurors were excused because some said outright that they viewed terrorism as a negative thing and could not judge fairly.

Mr. Blegen and Mr. Swift said that jurors should put their emotions aside and decide the case based on evidence.

Mr. Rana is the co-accused in the case with David Coleman Headley, who is also likely to testify at the trial and will reveal how he planned to carry out the Mumbai attacks.

While Mr. Headley has pleaded guilty, Mr. Rana has not pleaded guilty.

Mr. Headley claims that Mr. Rana, who is his friend from military school in Pakistan and ran an immigration agency, provided a cover for him to survey places in Mumbai as he started to plan the attacks two years before the attack was carried out.

Mr. Rana, a Pakistani-Canadian, on the other hand, said that he was duped by Headley.

On April 25, in a second superseding indictment, U.S. prosecutors charged four additional men, all Pakistani residents, in the 26/11 terror attacks that left 166 dead, including six Americans.

Mr. Rana was indicted by a federal grand jury under 12 counts on February 15 last year for planning out the attacks, providing material support to LeT to carry out the bombings, and guiding Headley in scouting targets in Mumbai in the process.

Mr. Headley, who was originally Daood Gilani, changed and anglicised his name in order to carry out the carnage without disclosing his Pakistani identity.

Mr. 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 Mr. Headley on Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

If convicted, Mr. Rana faces a possible life sentence.

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