Focus on Evidence in Mumbai Terror Trial

     CHICAGO (CN) – With admitted terrorist David Headley off the stand, prosecutors shifted their focus to buttressing charges that Chicago-based businessman Tahawwur Rana supported the 2008 Mumbai slaughter and a plot to attack Copenhagen.

     While Headley testified for five days about the intricacies of the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist organization to which he belonged, witnesses on Wednesday focused on technical and foundational evidence.
     Though far less animated, the government showed that its documentary and audio evidence is authentic. Rana’s team countered that there is still room for interpretation.
     The two sides stipulated to a number of facts, including the specifics of the Mumbai attacks, Lashkar’s inclusion on the United States’ list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations and Rana’s ownership of various phone numbers and email addresses. To expedite the case, the defense also agreed that records of Rana’s businesses, First World Immigration, do not appear in the Danish Business Database or the Danish Commerce Agency.
     The stipulation stands in apparent contradiction to Rana’s explanation of why he maintained contact with Headley during the latter’s time in Denmark. Rana says he did so because Headley worked for First World Immigration, and Headley testified that Rana “always wanted to have an office in Scandinavia.”
     Headley admitted that his true purpose in the city was to carry out surveillance in anticipation of an attack on the newspaper offices of Jyllands-Posten, which published controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005.
     Agent Douglas Seccombe testified Wednesday that he discovered a map of Copenhagen in Headley’s luggage after the latter was arrested at O’Hare Airport in October 2009.
     Agent David Mays of the Chicago Division Counterterrorism Squad offered the most extensive testimony, authenticating several emails sent between Rana and various Lashkar members. A friend of Lashkar’s so-called Major Iqbal, who is thought to work for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, contacted Rana about an unknown “project.”
     Mays also authenticated an email regarding the expiration of Rana’s Mumbai office lease, which occurred in the middle of the three-day rampage that left 160 dead.
     Other evidence included Headley’s business card for First World Immigration’s legal branch, emails proving Headley had acted as a consultant for the business while in Denmark and plane tickets that Rana purchased for him.
     As discussed earlier in the trial, Rana and Headley used various email addresses to communicate. Mays matched these with their Internet Protocol addresses to confirm that they belonged to Rana. On cross-examination, he acknowledged that Rana’s business adds some context to the discussion of visas and immigration scattered throughout all of Rana’s emails.
     Andleeb Iqbal, an FBI language analyst specializing in Urdu translation, told the jury of her “very significant” translation work in this case. Her work is behind nearly all of the recorded conversation transcripts admitted into evidence last week.
     FBI Special Agent Justin Poyer analyzed Rana’s phone records and confirmed that he had multiple numbers for Headley, labeled “Dave” and “Dave!” But the numbers “were not hidden” or marked off from the other 159 contacts in Rana’s phone, he later noted.
     Agent Gary Turlington of the Evidence Response Team talked about executing the initial search of Headley’s Chicago apartment, which turned up immigration papers signed by Rana’s business partner, Ray Sanders.
     Prosecutors also called two civilian witnesses, Syed Farid and Saad Mirza. Rana booked Headley’s flights between Chicago and Copenhagen with Farid, a travel agent.
     Until FBI agents contacted him, Farid had not thought the order seemed suspicious, he told jurors on cross. He also recalled that Rana told him to wait a while before he booked the Chicago ticket since Headley “might get it himself,” indicating that Rana may not have been essential in Headley’s plan to shuttle between Denmark and the United States.
     Mirza, 24, attends college in Chicago and a family friend of Rana. He recalled running several errands to the Pakistani Consulate General located in Chicago, as well as delivering money and letters in connection to Headley’s visa application. In a recorded conversation, Rana tells Mirza that he would go himself, but wants to avoid a long conversation with the head of the Consulate, an old schoolmate.
     The government’s case against Rana is nearly complete, and Rana’s defense case will begin early next week.

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