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Jury to begin deliberating Wednesday on Chicago man charged with aiding terrorists

Updated: August 3, 2011 4:34PM

Tahawwur Rana is a hopeful “dreamer” whose ambitions include opening immigration offices all around the world and making a kaleidoscopic Bollywood movie, his attorneys said.

But federal prosecutors said the only goal Rana focused on was helping his “trained terrorist friend” who had sinister visions of death and destruction.

Jurors will begin deliberating Wednesday on whether Rana was an innocent Chicago businessman used by his childhood pal or a crucial player in a pair of murderous plots thousands of miles away.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Collins and Vicki Peters argued that Rana, 50, was “not a dupe” or made a “fool” when David Coleman Headley went overseas and used Rana’s business as a cover as he lay the groundwork for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks and a separate thwarted plot targeting a Danish newspaper that printed controversial cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

Headley, the prosecution’s star witness who has since admitted his role in the deadly schemes, never kept his military school buddy “in the dark,” Peters said. Headley shared coded e-mails he exchanged with his co-conspirators and openly expressed his animosity toward India and belief that those responsible for the “offensive” depictions of the revered Muslim prophet should be “hanged,” prosecutors said in their closing arguments.

Rana had even concocted a phonye-mail, so the two could easily discuss the plots, and years before Headley stepped foot in India, Headley had revealed to Rana that he trained with Lashkar-e-Taiba — the Pakistan-based militant organization responsible for the carnage in Mumbai, Peters said.

“He knows exactly who David Headley is, and he knows what he’s about,” Peters said. “David Headley didn’t do anything alone. He did it with the defendant’s help.”

Rana’s attorney Patrick Blegen said Rana got “the shaft” from his troubled friend — a convicted heroin dealer and philanderer with starkly different religious views than Rana’s. Headley needed Rana to finance his “projects,” so he “gamed him,” Blegen said

“[Headley] is a lifelong manipulator, liar, con man,” Blegen said.

Blegen told jurors had Rana known about the Mumbai attacks or Danish plot, he never would have visited India days before the bloodshed or suggested that Headley take an elderly Christian lawyer to Copenhagen with him. If Rana was part of Headley’s inner circle, why did he need to be warned not to come back to India by a Headley cohort? Blegen questioned.

“Do you think the Cardinal tells the Pope in Rome that Christmas is coming?” Blegen said.

Collins told jurors to remember the secretly recorded Sept. 7, 2009, conversation in which Rana heaps compliments on Sajid Mir, the Mumbai attacks’ mastermind, and the nine Lashkar “fighters” who were killed by Indian forces.

Blegen noted that a the bulk of the banter between Headley and Rana Coleman was unintelligible.

But Collins said the sound of Rana’s laughter could be clearly heard when Headley singsonged five potential sites he was itching to destroy.

“This man [Rana] knew,” Collins said.

Rana is charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in India and Denmark. He is also charged with providing material support to Lashkar.

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