Chicago, May 23: Pakistani-American David Headley, who has pleaded guilty, may possibly talk about what Pakistan’s government knew about the 2008 Mumbai terror attack by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) when he testifies during the trial of Pakistan-born Tahawwur Rana.
Headley, son of a Pakistani father and an American mother, who changed his given name of Daood Gilani in 2006 to scout targets for the attack without arousing suspicion, will testify during his one-time pal Rana’s trial, Assistant US Attorney Sarah Streicker confirmed in her opening statement in federal court in Chicago.
Headley has turned prosecution’s star witness after confessing to his role in the attack in a plea deal to avoid the death penalty.
‘This is a case about the defendant’s support of two terror plots,’ Streicker told a jury of four men and eight women. ‘One that sadly happened, one that was stopped,’ she said referring to Mumbai attack and the foiled plot to attack a Danish newspaper that had published cartoons of prophet Mohammad.
‘The defendant knew all too well that when Headley travels to a foreign country, people may die,’ Streicker said.
Streicker said the government will show jurors evidence including emails between Headley and Rana that were written in code. She said Headley considered Rana ‘his best friend in the world’.
‘The defendant didn’t carry a gun or throw a grenade. In a complicated and sophisticated plot, not every player carries a weapon. People like the defendant who provides support are just as critical to the success,’ Streicker said.
Rana provided cover for his friend Headley, who took photos and video of targets in Mumbai and it was Rana who led Headley to pose as a representative for his Chicago-based immigration business, she said.
Describing Headley as a clean-cut man who could have been any tourist with a camera in Mumbai, the prosecutor suggested that it was Rana who approved of the plot to attack Mumbai at the behest of LeT.
But Rana’s attorney Charles Swift in his opening statement described Headley as a ‘manipulative man’ who ‘balanced multiple lives’.
Headley was working for LeT, Pakistani spy agency Inter Services Intelligence and the US Drug Enforcement Administration at the same time, he said.
Rana is the seventh name on the indictment, and the only defendant in custody. Among the six others charged in absentia is ‘Major Iqbal’ who reportedly helped plan the Mumbai assault and used Rana to relay messages to Headley.
Also charged are Sajid Mir, allegedly another LeT supervisor who also ‘handled’ Headley, Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, allegedly a retired Pakistani army officer and Ilyas Kashmiri, who the US said commands Harakat-ul Jihad Islami, a Pakistan-based terrorist group with ties to Al Qaeda.