Pakistani-Canadian terror suspect Tahawwur Rana under investigation for his role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, has stuck to his ‘not guilty’ plea to terror charges and is headed for trial, will appear before a U.S. court here on May 11 for a status hearing in the case.
Patrick Blegen, lawyer for the 48 year-old city businessman, told PTI that “during the status hearing, the judge is going to rule on some pre-trial motions”.
Mr. Blegen reiterated that there will not be any change in Rana’s not guilty plea, which he had entered in the U.S. District court in January.
He however did not comment on when he expects the trial in the case to start.
Rana’s May 11 status hearing is scheduled before U.S. Judge Harry Leinenweber.
Days after co-accused LeT operative David Coleman Headley had pleaded guilty in March to plotting the Mumbai terror attacks, Mr. Blegen had said his client would not be changing his not guilty plea and go ahead for a trial, which he hoped would start “sooner rather than later”.
Mr. Blegen had said he feels he still has a “strong case”.
Rana’s trial process is expected to start only after September, till when federal prosecutors would work on what evidence gathered against him can be used at trial.
Chicago’s top federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who is personally handling the case, had told the court he hopes to declassify evidence gathered in the terror investigation in the next few months.
Mr. Blegen and prosecutors agreed on a six-month schedule — April 5, June 1, July 1, August 2, September 13 — for carrying out provisions of the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA), which allows prosecutors to take extraordinary measures to prevent classified information from leaking to the public.
According to the calendar in the case, the government will provide classified discovery by June 1 and Judge Leinenweber has set a date of September 20 for a hearing to determine what classified information can be admitted as evidence at trial.
Rana has filed several pre-trial motions asking the government to provide him “specific” details of the kind of “material support” he is charged with providing to terror acts in Mumbai and Denmark, citing the need to be better prepared for trial.
Mr. Blegen said given the “complexity of the case”, his client should be entitled to know “with specificity what material support he is alleged to have provided” to terrorism since the “superseding indictment is not a clear appraisal of the allegations” against Rana.
The lawyer said the indictment keeps the allegations “vague” and prevents him from properly preparing a defence.
The government has objected to Rana’s demand for “specific” details, saying the superseding indictment provides more details than required and that the prosecution too continues to provide extensive discovery.
Federal prosecutors added the government has already provided “more than sufficient” information in the form of over 20,000 documents for him to prepare his defence for his trial.