U.S. prosecutors in Chicago to oppose bail for Canadian terror suspect

TORONTO - A Canadian businessman who denies allegations he was involved in a murky international terrorism plot will remain behind bars in Chicago at least until Dec. 2.

TORONTO - A Canadian businessman who denies allegations he was involved in a murky international terrorism plot will remain behind bars in Chicago at least until Dec. 2.

It was not immediately clear why Thursday's scheduled bail hearing for Tahawwur Rana was delayed.

The prosecution did say Wednesday it planned to fight to keep Rana behind bars as authorities in the United States, India and Pakistan build a case against him.

"The government is opposing his release on bail," a Department of Justice official said from Chicago on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We've asked for his pre-trial detention."

Rana, 48, has been held in custody since his arrest at home Oct. 18. He owns several businesses, including an immigration consultancy in Toronto.

The FBI complaint alleges that Rana and another Chicago resident, American David Headley, were part of a conspiracy to attack a Danish newspaper that drew the wrath of Muslims the world over in 2005 when it published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Pakistan-born Rana, also known as Tahawar Rana, was charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorism conspiracy that allegedly involved Headley and at least three other individuals in Pakistan.

Rana's lawyer, Patrick Blegen, said in an interview Wednesday his client "adamantly denied" the allegations.

Rana's friends and relatives in Canada and the United States had apparently been prepared to post bail worth US$1 million to secure his release at the hearing before Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan.

Blegen refused to name the supporters.

"Once they're listed in court, then of course they'll be public information but I don't want to release them before that," he said.

Indian media this week quoted intelligence sources as alleging Rana and Headley were part of the terrorist team behind the horrific Mumbai attacks a year ago, and were part of a larger conspiracy that planned further attacks in the Asian country.

U.S. prosecutors have not laid any charges against Rana in connection with those allegations.

Blegen said he was aware of the reports.

"I will probably have a comment on them in the near future, but not today," he said.

A U.S. court has given prosecutors until Jan. 14 to file an indictment against Rana after they said they needed more time to investigate.

FBI counterterrorism agents arrested Headley, who changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006, on Oct. 3 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as he was poised to board a flight to Philadelphia and Pakistan.

In unproven allegations that prompted headlines and an alert at nuclear plants in India, authorities in India said Rana had been in Mumbai just before the horrific terror attacks there a year ago in which more than 190 people were killed, including two Canadians.

Indian authorities reportedly found that Rana and a woman named Samraz Rana Akhtar arrived in Mumbai on Nov. 12, and news reports alleged the pair travelled in search of recruits for the extremist Islamic group, Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Rana travelled on a Canadian passport issued in Ottawa in 2006 under a visa issued by the Indian consulate in Chicago, prompting consular diplomats there to defend the process.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised Canada's full co-operation in the investigation during a visit to New Delhi this week.

NDTV in New Delhi reported that officials believe the pair collected photographs and video footage of the four places that were targeted last Nov. 26 and shared them with the 10 Pakistani terrorists who executed the attacks.

The intelligence sources were further cited as saying that Rana and Headley were in Pakistan during the attacks and Rana left Mumbai just five days before heading to Pakistan.

 
 
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