Chicago, Jun 10 : Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana today escaped a possible life sentence when he was acquitted by a US court on charges of plotting the 2008 Mumbai attacks but was found guilty of supporting Pakistan-based terror group LeT and planning a strike in Denmark.
A 12-member jury here reached a split verdict after two days of deliberations and ruled that 50-year-old Rana was not guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to the Mumbai attacks which killed 166 people, including six Americans. If he was convicted on this count, he could have received a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Announcing the verdict, US District Judge Harry D Leinenweber said Rana was guilty of providing material support to Lashkar-e-Taiba, which had carried out the 26/11 attacks, and plotting to bomb Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper which had published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Rana faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison on the two counts combined and remains in federal custody without bond, a US Justice Department statement said. No sentencing date was set.
"A Federal Court jury has convicted defendant Rana on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to the Denmark terrorism plot and one count of providing material support to LeT, and not guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to the Mumbai terrorist attacks," said Justice Department spokesman Randall Samborn.
The verdict left Rana, who was a co-accused in the Mumbai attacks with David Headley, stunned. His lawyers said they would appeal against the ruling as there was an "error" in the trial.
Rana's attorney Patrick Blegan said he would file post-trial motions that there was not enough evidence to convict him and that there was an error in the trial.
After the jury gave its verdict, US Attorney Patrick J Fitzgerald said the acquittal of Rana from charges that he was involved in the Mumbai terror attacks was disappointing.
"We are disappointed in the not guilty verdict on the Mumbai attacks," he told reporters.
At the same time, he said they were "gratified" that the jury found Rana guilty of involvement in plotting a terror attack in Denmark and providing material support to Lashkar-e-Taiba, designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organization.
"We are gratified by the guilty verdict of providing material support for the Lashkar. And we are gratified by the guilty verdict to providing material support to the conspiracy in Denmark," the US attorney said.
"I do not know, the government had the burden of proof," he said when asked what went wrong on the 26/11 charges.
"We put our evidence forward and the jury found that we did not meet the burden (of proof) there. But they did find we made our burden proving material support to Lashkar and they found that we met our burden with regard to attack on Denmark," Fitzgerald said.
He also justified the controversial plea bargain deal cut with Headley that spared him the death penalty and extradition to India, saying that not doing the pact would have been a "terrible mistake".
"I am convinced that we would have made a terrible mistake if we did not sit down with Headley and get all the information that we did and came from them," Fitzgerald said.
Each of the count, for which Rana has been convicted, carries a maximum imprisonment of 15 years, Rana's attorney Blegan said.
"Because the jury found no death resulting for the final count 12 (providing material support to LeT) there is no maximum of life sentence. Maximum is 15 (years) for each count," he said.
He said the government emphasised on the secretly taped car conversation between Rana and Headley, the star witness during the trial. He said there is a huge contradiction in the verdict as LeT is primarily involved in Mumbai and not in Denmark.
"But the government's evidence was that at least Lashkar was also involved in Denmark plot for a short period of time. Sound that the jury agreed to that," he said.
"Obviously we are extremely disappointed. We believe in Rana. We believe he was not guilty. The jury came to another decision. We respect their decision, but we think they got it wrong," Blegan said.
The verdict came nearly three weeks of trial of Rana at the Chicago court.
"One of the big issues could be whether these (sentences) could be run consecutively. That is something that could be part of the motion," said Charles Swift, Rana's other attorney. "We will argue that (to run the two sentences consecutively) because they involve exact same conduct but it will be up to the judge," he said.
Prosecutors alleged Rana, a military doctor-turned businessman, was aware of the Mumbai attacks and was in contact with the terror groups and their leaders in Pakistan.
Rana's attorney, on the other hand, pleaded not guilty and said that Pakistani-American Headley was an all time liar and had fooled him. PTI