CHICAGO - A recorded phone call in which a Chicago businessman praised the gunmen who carried out the 2008 attacks in Mumbai is proof he was "playing on the same team" as an admitted terrorist and longtime friend who helped lay the groundwork for the deadly three-day siege, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Victoria Peters told jurors during closing arguments that it was clear Tahawwur Rana helped his friend David Coleman Headley as he undertook video surveillance in Mumbai for the attackers who killed more than 160 people, including six Americans.
Not so, said an attorney for Rana, calling Headley, the government's star witness, a "manipulator" and a "liar."
Headley, son of a late Philadelphia socialite and a late Pakistani official, testified for five days about working for both Pakistan's main intelligence agency, known as the ISI, and Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani extremist group that claimed responsibility for the siege on India's largest city.
Peters zeroed in on a Sept. 7, 2009, phone call between the men in which they discussed the Mumbai attacks and Headley talked about future targets, including a Danish newspaper that in 2005 printed cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, angering many Muslims. That plot was never carried out.
She showed an English transcript of the conversation, which took place in Urdu during a car ride and was recorded by the FBI, showing that Rana had praised the Mumbai gunmen, saying they should be honored.
"Rana and Headley were playing on the same team," Peters said. "These two old friends don't just talk about past accomplishments, they talk about future goals."
Rana, a Pakistani-born Canadian who has lived in Chicago for years, did not testify at his trial. He is accused of providing cover for Headley by letting him open a branch office of his immigration-law services business and pose as a representative as he carried out surveillance for the Mumbai attacks and worked on the Danish plot.
Peters led the courtroom through more than a dozen e-mail messages and recorded conversations, including brief ones exchanged between Rana and ISI member known only as "Major Iqbal," who Headley testified gave him orders on the Mumbai plot.
Defense attorneys have tried to paint Headley as lacking in credibility, pointing out that he had initially lied to the FBI as he cooperated, lied to a judge, and even lied to his own family.
Headley "is a lifelong manipulator, liar," defense attorney Patrick Blegen told jurors.