Pakistani-Canadian LeT operative Tahawwur Hussain Rana has pleaded not guilty to the charges of helping arrange the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and making plans for an attack on a Danish newspaper.

Rana, clad in an orange prison jumpsuit with his hands and legs shackled, appeared before US Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys on Monday and entered a plea of not guilty to the three counts of charges against him in the superseding indictment returned on January 14 in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

During the arraignment that lasted about five minutes, Rana was informed about the charges against him and that he faces a potential life sentence. He took an oath before pleading not guilty.

Rana, 49, responded briefly when the judge asked him to spell out his full name, age and date of birth and whether he understood the charges against him.

He has been in the Metropolitan Correctional Centre since his arrest in October last year and will remain detained in federal custody. A status hearing has been scheduled for February 24 before US District Judge Harry Leinenweber.

Rana and his co-conspirator David Coleman Headley, also arrested by the FBI, have been indicted on charges of plotting the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008 that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

Co-accused Headley’s lawyer John Theis was also present at the hearing. None of Rana’s family members were present during the hearing.

Before the hearing began, Rana spoke briefly with his lawyer. Pakistani-American national Headley will appear in the same court on January 27 for his arraignment.

Speaking to reporters after the arraignment, Rana’s lawyer Patrick Blegen said, “we have entered a plea of not guilty and are looking foward to contesting the allegations. I am optimistic that we can fight these charges and clear Rana’s name“.

Blegen has already filed four-five motions seeking his client be released on bail but a bond has been denied to Rana on the grounds that he may use his financial resources and knowledge in immigration law to flee the country.

Blegen however said Rana is not a risk of flight and “has very strong family ties” to Chicago.

“This is not the kind of case where he could sneak across the border and live in some foreign country for the rest of his life. His desire is to fight these charges and clear his name and not to disappear,” he said.

To clear his name “Rana has to stay here” and not escape, which would only make his family suffer, Blegen added.

The attorney further said he does not believe the new indictment raises the stakes for his client, who already was facing a significant prison term.

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