Chicago: A US court on Thursday sentenced Tahawwur Rana, an accomplice of convicted terrorist David Headley, to 14 years in jail followed by five years of supervised release for providing material support to Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba and for backing a plot to strike a Danish newspaper.
The US District Judge Harry D Leinenweber gave his order after hearing from both the government attorney and those of 52-year-old Rana, during which the two argued on the length of imprisonment.
The last-minute arguments lasted for more than an hour and half before the judge noted "This certainly was a dastardly plot".
The Pakistani-Canadian was sentenced by the Chicago federal court despite his defence attorneys seeking a lighter sentence of not more than a nine-year jail term, citing his poor health.
US prosecutors had sought 30 years` for Rana, who his lawyers said was duped into participation by his school-time friend Headley. A defence filing before Tahawwur Rana`s sentencing had described him as charitable and kind-hearted.
"Based upon presiding over the trial and reading over the material that has been provided to me, we have on one hand a very intelligent person capable and willing to provide assistance to many many people.”
"What is difficult to understand how that kind of person is sucked into a ghastly plot that was proposed to go into the private office of a newspaper," the judge said.
He added: "It seems to me that people who are determined to carry out terrorist activity really do not care about what is going to happen to them. As long as Rana is in custody he is personally deterred from any personal such activity.”
"Providing a long sentence would make sure that Rana does not get involved in any kind of terrorist activity in the future".
Reacting to the verdict, the Prosecution said they were "pleased".
The defence filing had described his crimes as an aberration.
"Rana is a kind, hardworking, dedicated, charitable, compassionate family man," it says. "He made the unfortunate mistake of becoming involved in the activities of his oldest — and most manipulative — friend."
It added: "Rana is quite simply not a terrorist."
Prosecutors blasted the notion that Rana displayed any naivety, highlighting how in some of his communications he took pains to use coded language. Rana, the government filing said, had "engaged in extensive terrorist tradecraft”.
Far from being hoodwinked by Headley, Rana "made his own decision to participate ... and, once he did, did so whole-heartedly”.
Rana was convicted in June 2011 by a federal grand jury, which found the businessman guilty of providing material support to LeT and planning an aborted plot to bomb the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
Rana, who was originally arrested in 2009 for his involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, was acquitted of that charge.
However, Indian investigators have accused him of being involved in the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people and are seeking to question him for the second time.
Headley, who conducted reconnaissance of the targets of the Mumbai terror attacks for LeT, had entered a plea bargain with the FBI, saving himself from a possible death penalty.
Acting US Attorney Gary S Shapiro has requested the Chicago court in a position paper that Rana be handed down a total of 30 years in prison. Referring to the heart attack Rana suffered in June 2012 and the hospitalisation thereafter, his attorney Patrick W Blegan had told the court earlier, "It is likely that his health will continue to deteriorate. He will likely at some point require dialysis due to his kidney disease, and is, of course, at risk for a second heart attack or vasovagal event".
Pakistan-born, Rana is a naturalised Canadian citizen who later on moved to Chicago for business purposes and has been living here for more than a decade now.
Rana is the first of the eight co-defendants who were indicted by the federal prosecutors in October, to be sentenced by the Chicago Court.
Sentencing of Headley has been scheduled for January 24. In March 2010, he pleaded guilty to all 12 counts against him, including aiding and abetting the murders of the six American victims.
Facing a maximum sentence of life in prison, Headley cooperated with the Government since he was arrested in October 2009, and testified as a Government witness at Rana`s trial.
Among other six indicted by the FBI, include Ilyas Kashmiri, influential terrorist organisation leader in Pakistan who is in regular contact with of al Qaeda leaders; and Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed (Abdur Rehman), a retired major in the Pakistani military, both of whom were charged in two conspiracy counts relating to the Denmark terrorism plot.
(With Agency inputs)