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Prosecutors: Chicago terror suspect a flight risk

Prosecutors urge a federal judge to deny bond to one of two Chicago men charged with plotting a terrorist attack against a Danish newspaper.
Image: Detention hearing for Tahawwur Hussain Rana
A courtroom sketch of Tahawwur Hussain Rana at his detention hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan in federal court in Chicago on Wednesday. Rana is accused of assisting in a plot targeting employees of a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.Verna Saddock / EPA
/ Source: The Associated Press

Prosecutors urged a federal judge Wednesday to deny bond to one of two Chicago men charged with plotting a terrorist attack against a Danish newspaper, while the man's lawyer argued that his client could have been the innocent dupe of an alleged coconspirator.

Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 48, was a danger to the community and a flight risk and therefore should not be released on bond, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Collins told federal Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan.

Nolan said she needed more information and set another hearing in the case for Tuesday, although she said she wouldn't decide the matter then, either.

The husky, full-bearded Rana appeared at the hearing wearing the bright orange jumpsuit of a federal prisoner but did not say anything to the judge.

Hours before the hearing, prosecutors amended the complaint against Rana, adding a charge of providing material support to terrorism. He already had been charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorism.

The new charge did not add major factual allegations against Rana.

Cartoons triggered outrage
The complaint says Rana — a Canadian national who was born in Pakistan and owns a grocery store and immigration service in Chicago — provided travel services and other help to another man charged in the case, David Coleman Headley, as Headley scouted out the offices of Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper for a possible terrorist attack.

The newspaper published twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 that triggered outrage throughout the Muslim world. One cartoon showed Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban. Any depiction of the prophet, even a favorable one, is forbidden by Islamic law as likely to lead to idolatry.

Rana's attorney, Patrick Blegen, told Nolan the evidence in an FBI affidavit outlining allegations against his client could easily support the notion that he was merely an innocent dupe of Headley and knew nothing about any plan to attack the Danish newspaper.

"The weight of the evidence here is not as much as the government has told you," Blegen said in urging Nolan to free his client on bond.

Prosecutors say Headley, whose former name was Daood Gilani, envisioned a plan to murder the cartoonist and the newspaper's former cultural editor.

Headley's attorney, David Theis, has said he would have comment. Headley's bond hearing is set for Dec. 4 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys.

Possible sentence increased
Blegen told the judge that prosecutors had added a charge against his client just hours before the hearing to bolster their argument that he should not be released. He said the new charge upped the possible sentence from 15 years to 30 years in prison, adding weight to prosecutors' argument that Rana might try to flee to avoid going to prison.

Blegen scoffed at that notion, saying Rana lacks the money "to play an international game of cat and mouse with the government."

Rana will remain at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Blegen said Rana suffers from an old shoulder injury that makes it hard for him to press a button that works the water faucet in his cell, and that Rana needs to see a doctor.

Blegen said two of Rana's brothers in New Jersey were willing to post their homes as bond and relatives in Canada would post "what amounts to their life savings" to get him out of federal custody pending resolution of the case.

Nolan said requiring numerous relatives to post their homes and savings would be helpful because it "puts more eyes on the street" to watch Rana and make certain he would not flee and leave them without their assets.