Friday, May 27, 2011

Defense lawyers cross examine prosecution’s star witness in Mumbai terror case

No matter how hard he tried, David Coleman Headley could never get Tahawwur Rana to follow an extremist version of Islam that Headley had embraced after joining the militant Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The best friends often got into heated religious and ideological debates and when Headley gave the Chicago businessman a book that proclaimed Muslims should have “enmity” for non-believers, Rana rejected it, Headley testified Thursday.

The men had such divergent views that Headley would have never divulged to Rana that he was using Rana’s overseas immigration office to conduct surveillance work for Lashkar prior to the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, Rana’s attorneys insinuated.

Prosecutors spent more than two days dissecting e-mails and conversations with Headley in an attempt to show that Rana was well aware of Headley’s activities and zealously supported other murderous plots Headley was cooking up with his international cohorts.

But on Thursday, defense lawyers Charles Swift and Patrick Blegen tried to unravel the prosecution’s star witness’ story, pressing Headley during a full day of cross examination.

Headley, 50, has already pleaded guilty for his roles in the Mumbai attacks and a thwarted plot targeting the Danish newspaper that printed controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoons.

“I’m not saying he was jumping for joy. ... He didn’t object,” Headley said of Rana’s reaction when he told him of plans to behead Jyllands-Posten newspaper staff.

However, Headley did say he and a key Lashkar leader laughed in a recorded conversation because Rana suggested Headley take an elderly immigration lawyer to his next Copenhagen trip — a fact defense attorneys suggested that Rana thought Headley would be doing legitimate work in Europe.

The lawyers questioned why Headley, who claims to have been trained in espionage by Lashkar and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, would break the spy rules by telling his best friend crucial secrets.

They also pointed out that Rana went to India days before the Mumbai attacks and failed to send Headley a coded “congratulatory letter” like Headley’s other friends did. Rana also didn’t get a Copenhagen hat Headley said he gifted to the other attack masterminds as an inside joke.

Headley also said it was possible that when Rana said the nine dead Lashkar terrorists who descended on Mumbai should be given Pakistan’s highest military honor, he may have been repeating how Headley felt.

And although Headley told prosecutors Rana was just as anti-Indian as he was, Rana did seem to have a soft spot for the country’s popular film industry: Rana wanted to make a movie with the son of a Bollywood producer Headley befriended, Headley said Thursday.

By Rummana Hussain, Staff Reporter,

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

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