Rana a Mere Pawn in Headley's Hands: Defence Lawyers

Chicago, May 26 (IANS) Pakistan-born Canadian businessman Tahawwur Rana, accused of providing support to Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, was a mere pawn in the hands of David Coleman Headley, his lawyers have suggested.

Questioning star prosecution witness Pakistani-American Headley aka Daood Gilani, a self-confessed key plotter of the Mumbai attack, Rana's attorneys sought to paint their client as a good guy who was merely manipulated by a trusted friend.

"He was your friend, but he didn't do what you were doing?" asked Rana's defence attorney Charles Swift Wednesday, the third day of Rana's trial in a Chicago federal court.

"Yes," answered Headley, who has pleaded guilty to scouting targets for the Mumbai attack to escape the death penalty.

US-born Headley, who was raised by his Pakistani father in his native country, met Rana at a top military school in Pakistan and stayed in touch as adults.

Headley described Rana as a top student who attended medical school and adhered to strict religious beliefs, including no drinking alcohol or dating. Headley said he, on the other hand, used and smuggled drugs and dated multiple women.

When asked to describe himself as a student, he simply said, "Very bad".

Headley told attorneys he had tried to persuade Rana to join LeT, but his one-time friend declined because he said he did n0t espouse the beliefs of the ultra-conservative group.

Rana's attorneys also questioned Headley's claims that he met regularly and received money from one "Major Iqbal" from Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and his LeT handler Sajid Mir.

"What's Major Iqbal's full name?" Swift asked. "I don't know it," answered Headley.

Asked if his ISI training in Pakistan did not teach him how to create fake stories, back them up and "most importantly to manipulate people", a visibly pleased Headley answered, "Yes".

Swift also questioned Headley about a series of emails he exchanged with Rana and two other alleged conspirators in which all four seem to be discussing a plan to infiltrate an Indian organisation to gather intelligence.

The emails suggested that Rana was aware of the group's anti-Indian sentiments, but Headley acknowledged that he had not shared all the emails with everyone.

"The only person who knew everything was you," Swift said. "You did well in the espionage school."

"Thank you," Headley responded.

Headley also admitted that he once recruited Rana to accompany him on a trip across Pakistan, not telling him that the purpose of the trip was to transport drugs.

Headley said he hoped that Rana's military credentials would help avoid any police searches.

At that time, Rana was Headley's best friend in the world, he testified.

Headley's cross examination is expected to continue Thursday.


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