A Pakistan-born Chicago businessman was sentenced to 14 years in prison Thursday for his role in a plot to attack a Danish newspaper and providing material support to the Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT).
A federal jury in Chicago convicted Tahawwur Rana of the charges in June 2011 following a three-week trial. Jurors acquitted him of providing material support for the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed 164 people, including six Americans.
Rana was a lifelong friend of American Lashkar operative David Headley, who pleaded guilty to charges related to scouting targets in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Prosecutors alleged Headley used the Mumbai office of Rana’s immigration company, First World Immigration Services, as a cover for his numerous scouting missions to the city.
In testimony during Rana’s trial, Headley acknowledged Rana knew about the Mumbai plot and supported it. Headley also corroborated other evidence presented at trial that Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, the ISI, was involved in the attacks.
Prosecutors claimed Rana also assisted Headley in plotting an attack on the offices of the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten. The newspaper’s 2005 publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad had led to violent protests across the Muslim world.
Defense attorneys argued for a lesser sentence of seven to nine years on grounds that Rana was motivated by nothing other than friendship in helping his childhood friend. They also cited Rana’s declining health in seeking a more lenient sentence.
Though neither side got what it asked for, acting Chicago U.S. Attorney Gary S. Shapiro said Rana’s sentence still sent a good message. “This serious prison sentence should go a long way towards convincing would-be terrorists that they can’t hide behind the scenes, lend support to the violent aims of terrorist organizations, and escape detection and punishment.”