Prosecutors wrapping up Chicago terrorism case

CHICAGO (AP) — Prosecutors planned to call FBI agents and other remaining witnesses Wednesday to bolster the testimony of an admitted American terrorist who is the government’s star witness in the trial of a Chicago businessman accused in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

David Coleman Headley, who has pleaded guilty to scoping sites for the siege on India’s largest city, spent five days on the witness stand detailing how he received orders from a Pakistani terrorist group blamed in the attacks, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the country’s main intelligence agency known by the acronym ISI.

But defense attorneys for the Chicago businessman on trial, Tahawwur Rana, said Headley’s account is unreliable. They claim he implicated Rana, his longtime school friend, in the plot because he was motivated by the possibility of making a deal with prosecutors — a technique he learned after becoming an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration following two heroin convictions.

“He hides the truth from everyone,” Rana attorney Charles Swift told reporters. “David Headley at the center is a spider who maneuvers everything in the web so it works out his way.”

Headley, who pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty and extradition, wrapped up testimony Tuesday. Prosecutors said they expect to call up to eight more witnesses starting Wednesday, including FBI agents.

None has been as anticipated as Headley, whose testimony has been scrutinized for what it has revealed about the global fight against terrorism. The trial comes on the heels of the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces in Pakistan and amid suspicions that the country’s government may have known or helped hide the former al-Qaida leader. Pakistan has denied the allegations.

Headley testified Tuesday that a militant leader with ties to al-Qaida — who is also charged in Rana’s case — had plotted to attack U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin. Headley told jurors that in August 2009, he used one of Rana’s computers at his Chicago-based immigration services business to begin researching details about Lockheed Martin for Ilyas Kashmiri, a Pakistani terrorist leader.

Rana, a Pakistani-born Canadian, has pleaded not guilty to accusations that he provided Headley cover as a representative of his immigration business while Headley conducted surveillance for the attacks that killed more than 160 people. Rana has also pleaded not guilty to assisting Headley as he took surveillance for another planned attack on a Danish newspaper that in 2005 printed cartoons of Prophet Muhammad that offended many Muslims.

In their final moments to question Headley before jurors on Tuesday, prosecutors reiterated that all of Headley’s work in plotting and planning were communicated with Headley’s Lashkar handler, Sajid Mir, and an ISI officer known only as “Major Iqbal” and Rana. Mir and Iqbal, along with several others, are also listed on the Rana indictment, but their whereabouts are unknown.

Defense attorneys said they were still decided if they would put on a case.

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Sophia Tareen can be reached at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen

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