The Biden administration has urged a court in California to deny the writ of habeas corpus filed by Pakistani-origin Canadian businessman Tahawwur Rana and reiterated that he be extradited to India where he is sought for his involvement in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
In May, a U.S. court approved 62-year-old Rana's extradition to India. Rana is currently detained at the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Los Angeles.
On June 10, 2020, India filed a complaint seeking the provisional arrest of Rana with a view towards extradition. The Biden Administration had supported and approved the extradition of Rana to India.
"The United States respectfully requests that the Court deny Rana's petition for a writ of habeas corpus," said E. Martin Estrada, U.S. attorney for Central District of California in his petition filed before the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Opposing Rana's petition, Mr. Estrada said the petitioner is unable to demonstrate that India's extradition request lacks sufficient evidence of probable cause.
Last month, Rana filed a writ of habeas corpus challenging a court order which approved the U.S. government's request that he be extradited to India.
Rana's attorney argued that his extradition would violate the U.S.-India extradition treaty in two respects.
First, Rana has been tried and acquitted in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for charges based on the identical conduct for which India seeks to prosecute him. The extradition is therefore barred under Article 6(1) of the Treaty, which declares that "(e)extradition shall not be granted when the person sought has been convicted or acquitted in the Requested State for the offence for which extradition is requested".
Second, the materials submitted by the government of India – comprising principally transcripts and exhibits from Rana's trial in the Northern District of Illinois – fail to establish probable cause that he committed the offences with which India has charged him. The Indian government's extradition request thus fails to satisfy Article 9.3(c) of the Treaty, according to Rana's attorney.
The court should grant the writ of habeas corpus, deny extradition and order Rana's release, his attorney argued.
In his submission to the court on June 23, the U.S. attorney had argued that Rana's claims about the legitimacy of his business in Mumbai fall flat.
The evidence does not support his assertion that the Mumbai office conducted legitimate business, but even if it did, the engagement of legitimate business activities does not preclude a finding that Rana's business also served as a cover for his childhood friend Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley's terrorism-related activities in Mumbai.
"Rana's claims about who funded the Mumbai office also do not relate to whether Rana lacked knowledge of and support for Headley's activities. Similarly, even if Rana hoped to continue business operations in Mumbai, the evidence reveals that neither Rana nor Headley renewed the business lease that expired approximately two weeks before the start of the Mumbai attacks," Mr. Estrada argued.
Headley was one of the main conspirators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Rana was arrested in the U.S. on an extradition request by India for his role in these attacks.
India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) is probing into his role in the 26/11 attacks carried out by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists in 2008. The NIA has said that it is ready to initiate proceedings to bring him to India through diplomatic channels.
Mr. Estrada said the fact that Rana received a warning before the attacks does not preclude a finding of probable cause. "In the fall of 2008, when Headley learned that Rana was going to travel to China and India, he decided to warn Rana that an attack may be forthcoming through a co-conspirator," he said.
"While the details of the conversation between Rana and the co-conspirator are unknown, a September 7, 2009 FBI intercept reveals that Rana told Headley that their co-conspirator had warned him (Rana) that the Mumbai attacks were imminent. Contrary to Rana's claim, the co-conspirator's warning does not suggest that he was unaware of the upcoming attacks," the U.S. attorney argued.
Instead, it merely suggests that Rana was not aware of the date of the attack, which is consistent with the fact that Headley had informed Rana earlier that the attack plans were being delayed.
Estrada said that Rana's claim that he did not review Headley's visa application is not supported by the evidence.
"Rana does not dispute that Headley's visa applications contain false information; rather, he claims that it is 'unlikely that (he) checked (the applications) for accuracy' because he would have corrected a statement indicating that Headley worked for 'First World Immigration', instead of 'Immigrant Law Centre'," he said.
"While 'Immigration Law Centre' is a 'DBA for Raymond J. Sanders, Rana's business partner, that business and 'First World Immigration' shared the same address and telephone number. Significantly, India issued Headley a business visa, even though he wrote, 'First World Immigration' on his 2006 visa application and the accompanying support letter from Mr. Sanders referred to the employing entity as 'Immigration Law Centre'." Thus, Rana's claim does not undermine probable cause and is not persuasive, the U.S. attorney said.
A total of 166 people, including six Americans, were killed in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in which 10 Pakistani terrorists laid a more than 60-hour siege, attacking and killing people at iconic and vital locations of Mumbai.