A US attorney recently said in court that Canadian-Pakistani citizen Tahawwur Rana, who played a role in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, is extraditable to India. It is the latest development in the Indian government’s years-long bid to bring Rana to India.

In fact, the US District Court Central District of California approved his extradition to India in May 2023. Rana then appealed in the court against the order and in October that year, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit court gave him more time to file a motion on the matter. In May this year, Rana filed a habeas corpus plea against the California order.

According to a PTI report, Assistant US Attorney and Criminal Appeals Chief Bram Alden recently spoke about his extradition while arguing before the Ninth Circuit court.

Referring to the India-US Extradition Treaty, Alden reportedly said, “Rana is extraditable to India under the plain provisions of the treaty, and India has established probable cause to prosecute him for his role in terrorist attacks that resulted in 166 deaths and 239 injuries. .” What is the case against him?

Who is Tahawwur Rana?

Rana, 63, was a childhood friend of David Headley. Headley, a US citizen who was born to an American mother and a Pakistani father, was arrested in October 2009 by US authorities and sentenced to 35 years in prison for his involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

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The US government said, “Headley was convicted of conspiracy to bomb public places in India; conspiracy to murder and maim persons in India; six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of US citizens in India; conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism in India…” He was also part of a conspiracy to bomb a newspaper office in Denmark.

Rana studied at the Hasan Abdal Cadet School in Pakistan, which Headley also attended for five years. After a stint as a doctor in the Pakistan Army, Rana moved to Canada and was eventually granted Canadian citizenship.

What was Tahawwur Rana’s role in the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai?

Rana later established a consultancy firm called First World Immigration Services in Chicago, USA. It was a branch of this business in Mumbai that provided Headley with the perfect cover to identify and surveil potential targets for the Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

In the 26/11 attacks, on November 26, 2008, 10 LeT terrorists stormed into the financial capital of the country and for three consecutive days, the city of Mumbai was in the grip of terror. Major landmarks like the Taj hotel and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station were attacked. The violence claimed the lives of 166 people, including six Americans. Pakistani nationals who carried out the attacks reached India via boats, it was later found.

During court hearings, the US government attorneys argued that Rana was aware that Headley was involved with the LeT and that by assisting him and affording him cover for his activities, he was supporting the terrorist organization and its associates.

Rana was arrested by American police soon after Headley’s arrest at Chicago’s O’Hare airport in October 2009. He was convicted in Chicago in 2011 of providing material support to the LeT for the India attack and for supporting the never-carried-out plot to attack. a Danish newspaper named Jyllands-Posten, which printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005.

However, jurors in the US cleared Rana of a more serious charge of providing support for the attacks in Mumbai.

Rana’s lawyer said he had been duped by Headley, who plotted the attacks. The defense called Headley the government’s chief witness, who testified to avoid the death penalty, a habitual liar and manipulator.

It was Headley’s testimony as a government witness at Rana’s trial in Chicago that led to Rana being sentenced to 14 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. In 2013, Headley entered a plea bargain with prosecutors in exchange for a reduced 35-year sentence, but Rana did not.

What did David Headley say about Tahawwur Rana?

Headley told prosecutors that in July 2006, he had traveled to Chicago to meet Rana and told him of the mission that the LeT had assigned him. Rana approved Headley’s plan to establish a First World Immigration Services center in Mumbai and helped him obtain a five-year business visa.

However, while deposing via video link at the Bombay City Civil and Sessions Court in February 2016, Headley claimed that he had informed Rana of his activities only a few months before the attacks in November 2008.

Rana’s chief concern, Headley claimed, had been that no terror activities should be conducted from the company’s office in Tardeo in central Mumbai. Headley also told prosecutors in Mumbai that no visa application had been processed at the center. Rana also provided financial support to Headley, paying him Rs 67,605 in October 2006, $500 in November 2006, Rs 17,636 a few days later, and $1,000 in December 2006.

What was India’s extradition request?

In early 2020, Rana was granted early release on health grounds from the Terminal Island prison in Southern California after he tested positive for Covid-19. Fearing that Rana, who is now in the final years of his sentence, would be freed, India pushed its pending provisional arrest warrant request and extradition request for Rana.

After American authorities executed that request on June 10 that year, he was arrested in Los Angeles on June 19. In 2021, the Biden administration urged a federal court to certify India’s request for extradition. Assistant US Attorney John J Lulejian, in his submission before a federal US court in Los Angeles, said Rana met all criteria to be extradited to India for his trial, even as Rana’s attorney opposed this.

Earlier in 2011, India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) had filed a chargesheet against nine people including Rana, Headley, Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi of the LeT, al-Qaeda operative Illyas Kashmiri, and several Pakistan Army officials for planning and executing the attack.

In 2014, a Sessions Court in Delhi issued fresh non-bailable warrants against the nine men whom the NIA had listed as being absconding.

This is an edited version of an explainer first published in 2023.