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Family says accused Canadian terror supporter peaceful; U.S. says he has two sides

CHICAGO - A Canadian man accused in the U.S. of supporting an international terrorism plot is such a peaceful soul he doesn't even like to talk about news of violence in the world, family and acquaintances told his bail hearing Wednesday.

CHICAGO - A Canadian man accused in the U.S. of supporting an international terrorism plot is such a peaceful soul he doesn't even like to talk about news of violence in the world, family and acquaintances told his bail hearing Wednesday.

The assurances given to the court by Tahawwur Rana's supporters were countered by a prosecution that alleged there are two sides to the man.

Rana, 48, and David Headley, an American, were arrested in October for their alleged involvement in a plot to attack a newspaper in Denmark and murder an editor and a cartoonist responsible for publishing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Rana faces two counts: conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist conspiracy and providing support to that conspiracy. The allegations against Rana centre around his alleged support of Headley.

At his bail hearing in Chicago, where Rana has lived for more than 10 years, his brother-in-law and two acquaintances testified that Rana does not condone violence.

"He can't talk about violence too much because he's a peaceful person," said Athar Akhtar, whose sister is married to Rana.

"He's a most trustworthy and honest person and he's a very good and sincere person."

The FBI is also reportedly probing whether Rana and Headley were involved in the attacks last year in Mumbai that killed 166 people. Rana's lawyer Patrick Blegen has said Rana "categorically denies" involvement.

Several family members were in court Wednesday and Rana gave them a quick wave when he was led in. His lawyer said because of some paperwork problems he has not been able to see them since his arrest in October.

Two other people also testified that Rana is a good man who doesn't discuss violence - a man who belongs to a group with Rana that studies the writings of Pakistani philosopher who promoted peace and another man who testified to Rana's good reputation within the Pakistani-American business community.

Rana is involved with several businesses, including an immigration consultancy in Toronto.

But the prosecution told the court that the first two men had only ever had a few, surface conversations with Rana and suggested he and his brother-in-law were not terribly close.

"He's got a whole other side where he's involved with coded messages," prosecutor Daniel Collins said.

"These folks don't know that side."

Prosecutors cite as evidence recorded conversations in which Rana mentions "targets," emails with Headley that use coded messages and a mathematical formula they allegedly worked out to switch email addresses they used to communicate after a certain time period.

Prosecutors also refer to other documents that purport to show Rana provided material support to Headley, including supplying a cover story for Headley who allegedly "performed extensive video surveillance" of the Danish newspaper.

Magistrate Judge Nan R. Nolan has adjourned the hearing until Dec. 15 to take time to review a five-hour video of Rana's post-arrest interview.

Outside court Rana's lawyer Patrick Blegen said there isn't even an allegation that Rana funded Headley's travels to Denmark, and he is hopeful Rana will be granted bail in two weeks.

"I don't think, after having been able to review some of the evidence, that the complaint is as strong as the prosecution is making it out to be," Blegen said.

"I guess the government's taking the position that arranging travel can be material support...I've never seen another case where going on Expedia and getting somebody a ticket was material support of terrorism, but we'll see."

 
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