Rana Trial May Expose Pakistan's Double Game

Chicago, May 23 (IANS) Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) may be in the dock as Pakistan born Tahawwur Rana goes on trial in Chicago Monday for allegedly helping Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist group in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

Pakistani-American David Headley, who has confessed to his involvement in the attacks, will be the star witness in the trial of Rana, his boyhood friend and alleged accomplice.

As ProPublica, an investigative journalism group noted in a report published in the Washington Post Sunday the trial has drawn international attention because Headley's testimony could reinforce allegations that Pakistan plays a double game in the terrorism fight.

The prosecution will depend largely on how the jury views Headley, 50, with "a knack for juggling relationships with multiple wives, terrorist groups, and law enforcement and intelligence agencies," it said.

The confessions of Headley, who pleaded guilty last year to scouting targets for the Mumbai attacks, "painted a devastating portrait" of the Pakistani spy agency because he said ISI officers helped the LeT plot the commando-style Mumbai attacks, ProPublica noted.

Rana's defence centres on ISI links. His attorneys say Headley, son of a pakistani father and an American mother, convinced Rana that he was part of an ISI operation in India, then betrayed him to escape the death penalty.

Prosecutors recently raised the political stakes by indicting a suspected ISI officer in the deaths of six Americans in the Mumbai attacks, the news group noted.

The officer, identified only as Maj. Iqbal, was charged last month, along with three alleged Lashkar masterminds of the attacks.

ProPublica suggested the indictment, decided at high levels in Washington, sent a tough signal to Pakistan shortly before the raid that killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, a military town near Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.

"I think it shows the government believes Headley when he says his handler was an ISI officer," James Kreindler, a former federal prosecutor who is suing the ISI in New York on behalf of victims of the Mumbai attacks and their families, was quoted as saying.

Headley told investigators that he has a distant Pakistani relative who was a former ISI deputy director, according to Indian and US officials.

If that link is confirmed, it could help explain why - according to his confession - the ISI recruited Headley and how he had access to senior officers and militant chiefs, ProPublica said.


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