A Canadian citizen's recorded praise for the gunmen in the 2008 Mumbai attacks to a friend and admitted member of a Pakistani militant group proves the two men were "playing on the same team," U.S. prosecutors said Tuesday.
The comment came during the prosecution's closing arguments in the trial of Tahawwur Rana, a Pakistani-born immigration businessman from Ottawa, who is charged with several counts of providing material support for terrorism.
U.S. authorities allege Rana gave cover to childhood friend David Headley to perform surveillance on targets in the Mumbai massacre and on sites for an unexecuted plot to attack a Danish newspaper. Headley allegedly posed as a consultant for Rana's immigration services company.
Assistant U.S. attorney Victoria Peters reminded jurors Tuesday of a recorded Sept. 7, 2009, phone conversation in Urdu between Rana and childhood friend Headley.
The conversation — in which Rana suggested the Mumbai gunmen should be honoured and Headley is heard discussing future targets — shows Rana, a former Pakistani army doctor, "was not a fool" over what Headley was doing.
"Rana and Headley were playing on the same team," Peters said. "These two old friends don't just talk about past accomplishments, they talk about future goals."
But in its summary, Rana's defence team argued the prosecution's case rests entirely on a dishonest witness who made a plea deal to spare himself the death penalty or extradition to India.
"David Headley is a life-long manipulator, a liar and a con man," Patrick Blegan said. "It's like trying to pet a rattlesnake.
"He manipulated the truth and withheld information from Dr. Rana. He's not a simple liar. He's much more than that."
During the trial, the defence team, led by prominent human rights lawyer Charles Smith, focused questioning on how Headley initially lied to the FBI as he pretended to co-operate, lied to a judge and even lied to his own family.
Headley, a former classmate of Rana's at a Pakistani boarding school, legally changed his name from Daood Sayed Gilani.
"All Mr. Smith has to do though of course is plant reasonable doubt in one juror’s mind," the CBC's Bill Gillespie reported Tuesday from Chicago.
But Gillespie also noted that since the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. federal prosecutors "have a 90 per cent success rate in getting convictions in terrorism cases."
Pakistan intelligence links alleged
On Monday, prosecutors played short video clips of statements from Rana, who had agreed to speak with FBI investigators for nearly six hours after his arrest.
Rana could be heard in the clips recounting names and affiliations of others charged in the case, including members of the Pakistani intelligence agency known as ISI and Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group blamed in the Mumbai attack.
But it was unclear from the statements whether Rana knew of the Mumbai plot ahead of time.
Rana emigrated from Pakistan to Canada in 1997, staying just long enough to become a Canadian citizen before moving to Chicago to open a branch of his successful immigration consulting business.
In Chicago, Rana renewed his friendship with Headley, who has confessed to being a Lashkar-e-Taiba member. Headley testified at the trial that he conducted detailed surveillance on the Mumbai target while posing as a representative of Rana's company — and that Rana was in on the plot that killed more than 160 people, including two Canadians.
Headley has also testified he learned surveillance and intelligence techniques at training camps run by ISI agents and saw Pakistani army officers giving Lashkar fighters weapons training.
Rana did not testify in his defence.