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Family defends Canadian accused of terror plot

To the FBI, he's the man with the money and the cover. Canadian Tahawwur Rana is accused of bankrolling trips to Denmark - using his immigration consultancy as a front - so that his lifelong friend, David Headley, could scope out the best way to kill a cartoonist and a newspaper editor for mocking Islam.

But a key aspect of Mr. Rana's defence is starting to emerge - one that paints him not as a deep-pocketed financier, but rather an out-of-the-loop keeper of his friend's cash.

Since last month's arrests of the two friends - who have known each other since they were teenagers at a Pakistani dormitory cadet college - the pair have been at the heart of an international media frenzy, fed by FBI affidavits.

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Their names are repeatedly mentioned in the Indian press, as reports citing anonymous Indian security officials provide detailed leaks on the latest twists and turns of their broadening terror probe.

The BBC News reported yesterday that seven men have recently been arrested in Bangladesh for allegedly plotting an attack on the U.S. and Indian embassies in Dhaka this Thursday.

The Nov. 26 date would mark the one-year anniversary of the wave of terror attacks that rocked Mumbai last year, killing more than 160 people.

The BBC said the information behind some of the arrests came to U.S. investigators after they arrested Mr. Rana and Mr. Headley in the United States.

Mr. Rana, now 48, has lived with his wife and three children in Chicago for the past 10 years. He immigrated to Canada in 1997 and became a citizen in 2001.

His Chicago-based lawyer says he cannot comment on the evidence against his client. Mr. Rana's family, largely on the advice of his lawyer, have also kept silent.

But in recent days, two of Mr. Rana's relatives have spoken out.

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Muhammed Akthar is quoted in a recent Times of India report describing the financial arrangement between Mr. Rana and Mr. Headley, who went by the name Daood Gilani until 2006. A source said that Mr. Akthar is Mr. Rana's father-in-law and supported his description of the financial relationship.

"They were close friends," Mr. Akthar is quoted as telling the Times of India. "After a while, Headley had some money, and he gave it to Rana. Rana's wife has an account of all of this. Whenever Headley wanted tickets or anything, we gave him his own money. What's wrong with that?"

The report does not explain why Mr. Headley would set up such an arrangement. It also contradicts an FBI affidavit that suggests Mr. Headley boasted to a third party that his foreign travel was paid for by Mr. Rana.

An FBI affidavit said Mr. Headley, a 49-year-old American, travelled the world yet has no known or reported employment, other than his claims to act on behalf of Mr. Rana's immigration business. His residence is an apartment leased to a dead person.

Mr. Headley's lawyer, John Theis, said he could not comment on the case.

Mr. Rana also owns a halal slaughterhouse in addition to his immigration business, which has an office in Toronto.

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Mr. Rana's ongoing connection to Canada revolves around a home in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata that he and his Canadian wife, Samraz Akhtar Rana, own with three other family members.

Mr. Rana's younger brother, Abbas Rana, lives in that house with his wife and his father Wali. Since 2002, Abbas Rana has worked as a reporter for the Hill Times newspaper.

In a column yesterday titled "Why The Hill Times Supports Its Reporter, Abbas Rana," publisher Jim Creskey wrote that the charges have been "devastating" to the Rana family and that Abbas Rana knew nothing more about the accusations facing his brother than what he has read in the media.

"To the best of my knowledge, these charges are false," Abbas Rana was quoted as saying. "I know my brother. I love my brother. He's a man of integrity, he's honest, and he's a hard-working person."

Abbas Rana has not spoken to any other media and has not returned phone calls from The Globe and Mail.

Mr. Creskey wrote about the impact of the news on Wali Rana, the ailing 75-year-old father of Tahawwur and Abbas Rana, who was hospitalized upon learning of the charges.

And he described Abbas Rana as a respected, quiet and thoughtful journalist who "revels in the virtues of democratic institutions." The publisher also took issue with some of the media reports of the Rana case.

"As I read about his brother's case in news stories from Chicago, to India, to Canada, I can't help but notice the innuendo that appears to imply guilt in the reporting on allegations of terrorism," he said.

The FBI's case alleges that Mr. Rana and Mr. Headley conspired with individuals on government terror watch lists to attack a Danish newspaper for publishing cartoons that mocked Islam.

The FBI's affidavits state that the plans appeared to shift around September of this year toward an attack in India.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More


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