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Potential jurors questioned in Mumbai terror trial

Potential jurors questioned in Mumbai terror trial

A federal judge excused more than 20 possible jurors Tuesday in the trial of a Chicago businessman accused in the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks, as discussions about Islam, terrorism and citizenship dominated jury selection.
The process teased out what attorneys may have in store at Tahawwur Rana's trial, where testimony may reveal suspected links between a Pakistani militant group blamed for the attacks and Pakistan's top intelligence agency.
Rana is accused of providing cover for a former school classmate who admitted scouting sites for the rampage that killed more than 160 people in India's largest city. He also allegedly helped plan an attack that never occurred on a Danish newspaper that in 2005 printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber excused one woman after she admitted being afraid of serving on a terror trial jury. Another man was excused because he said he couldn't be fair to the defendant, who is Muslim. According to the judge, the juror had written on his questionnaire, "Terrorists are manly Muslims, or am I wrong?"
The trial is being closely watched globally, especially as Pakistan's largest intelligence agency is under scrutiny after Osama bin Laden was killed during an American raid on his compound outside the country's capital. The government's star witness could be Rana's former school friend David Headley, who pleaded guilty in the case and has admitted working on behalf of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is blamed in the attacks. He's also claimed to Indian investigators that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency was involved in the attacks, according to an Indian government report.
Twelve jurors and six alternates, who will remain anonymous through the trial, will be chosen from the pool of nearly 100. Remaining potential jurors include a librarian, a music teacher and a man who works for a hospital. Jury selection is expected through Thursday.
"Jury selection is about learning about the jurors and, at some level jurors is about planting seeds on trial themes," said Joseph Rice, the president of the California-based Jury Research Institute.
Part of that is understanding the defendant, he said.
Rana, 50, is a Canadian citizen born in Pakistan. He's lived legally for years in Chicago and is Muslim.
One juror question _ "Do you believe that non-citizens should be afforded the same constitutional rights as citizens?" _ prompted several explanations from the judge, who said the law is clear that both are treated equally in the criminal justice system.
Rana's attorneys said they were looking for jurors who could separate emotion and current events from the trial, which they say will prove their client's innocence.
"It's a little bit science, but it's also a lot of feeling and lot of viewing what the jurors say, how they say things and the answers they gave," said Rana attorney Patrick Blegen.
Prosecutors didn't comment on the second day of jury selection.
Rana, who occasionally rested his hands on his face, appeared to follow the proceeding intently. He did not speak.


Updated : 2021-07-25 12:19 GMT+08:00