CHICAGO (CN) - A federal judge ordered a 14-year prison sentence Thursday for the man who plotted against the Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.
Tahawwur Rana had been convicted by a jury in June 2011 of supporting the plot in Denmark, and of supporting the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Lashkar is known for its long involvement in the Indo-Pakistani conflict over the Kashmir region, as well as for carrying out a series of attacks that rocked Mumbai in November 2008, leaving 164 people dead.
The group had also planned to attack the Jyllands-Posten newspaper of Denmark in retaliation for its publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005. This plot would have involved murders and beheadings inside the newspaper's office.
After hearing a heated debate on Rana's role in the plot Thursday, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber sentenced 52-year-old Rana to a 14-year prison term and five years of supervised release. The defendant will not face a special sentencing enhancement for terrorism.
David Headley, a co-conspirator who testified against Rana, faces sentencing next week.
Rana, visibly aged and in poor health, sat silently throughout the proceedings, much as he had during his trial in May and June 2011.
Two issues dominated the proceedings: the terrorism-enhancement question and whether the severity of the charges justified a departure from the sentencing guidelines range.
"This was calculated to retaliate against the government of Denmark due to its support of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, to lead to a fight to the death," Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Collins said.
Rana's side fought application of the terrorism enhancement by noting that the plot targeted only the newspaper, a private entity.
Quoting Headley's testimony, defense attorney Patrick Blegen said that "the whole purpose of the attack was to avenge the fact that the newspaper had made these cartoons."
He also characterized the prosecution's strategy as a "trick," and repeatedly accused the government of misrepresenting the transcript.
Under its logic, "every crime would get a terrorism enhancement because every crime gets some government response," Blegen noted. "This does not make every crime into an attack on the government."
Blegen insisted: "The point is now how gruesome the attack would be or whether it would include beheading and so forth, but whether it was an attack on the Danish government."
"It is absurd to say that the plot to attack the Jyllands-Posten was one to attack Denmark itself," he concluded. "This is not comparable to 9/11 because it only involved private buildings."
Judge Leinenweber accepted the thrust of the defense position, ruling that "this was certainly a dastardly plot, but not clearly directed toward the government. It seems queer to me that an attack on a private paper on private property becomes an attack on government. The purpose was to intimidate the press."
Blegen also pushed unsuccessfully for a sentencing reduction that considered Rana's allegedly minor role in the plot.
Leinenweber concluded, however, that plotters cannot play minor roles when the crime is the plan itself.
Visibly incensed, Collins repeatedly emphasized that Rana "wanted to give medals to all nine Mumbai attackers."