Chicago: Tahawwur Rana, an aide of convicted terrorist David Headley, was today sentenced to 14 years in jail followed by five years of supervised release by a US court for providing material support to Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and for backing a plot to strike a Danish newspaper.
52-year-old Pakistani-Canadian Rana was sentenced by the Chicago federal court despite his defence attorneys seeking a lighter sentence of not more than a 9-year jail term, citing his poor health. (Reporter's diary on Rana sentencing)
US prosecutors had sought 30 years' for Rana, who his lawyers said was duped into participation by his school-time friend Headley.
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.
David 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 last year, 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.
The whole idea that Headley was sent to Copenhagen to place an advertisement in a newspaper when you can do it simply over computer from here, shows that "the crime is serious", the Judge said noting Rana assisted Headley in going to Denmark for such a plot.
The Assistant US Attorney government attorney Daniel Collins said that "terrorism enhancement" be taken into consideration for sentencing and pleaded for "severe sentence" for Rana.
Peter Blegan, Rana's attorney, argued that it is not applicable and claimed that the argument made by the government attorney is factually inaccurate.
"The court finds that terrorism enhancement does not apply under the current terrorism act," judge Leinenweber said.
"This seems clear to me that the planned attack was on a private company on a private property...we had a plot to invade a private newspaper and a private property. It was a ghastly plot," he noted.
Rana was brought to the court in an orange jump suit several minutes after scheduled sentencing hearing at 10 AM local Chicago time.
Gray haired Rana appeared calm, but weak. His wife could not be present as she was denied entry into the US from Canada by immigration authorities, Mr Blegan said.
One of his sons was also not present as he was in college. However, a number of his other family members were present during the sentencing hearing, which was jam packed with a battery of reporters representing both the Indian and US media.
Judge Leinenweber said he has read and reviewed the positions of both the government and those of the Rana attorney.
He said he has also received letters of recommendations in favour of Rana from his family, friends and other members of the society.