Toronto-based Ahmadi missionary Muhammad Luqman Rana has been awaiting trial in a US court’s custody for six months on 10 charges of production of child pornography and extortion.
In a result of an arrest warrant, Luqman was arrested and extradited to the United States from Canada on January 25 this year. During his initial appearance, Rana surrendered his passport before magistrate judge A. David Copperthite in the District of Maryland on January 26, when he was informed of his rights during detention. On the court directions, the accused submitted his financial affidavit giving details about his property and other moveable and immoveable assets. On his request, the court also appointed a federal public defender for him.
Rana’s arraignment was set for February 28 when he pleaded not guilty before magistrate judge Gina L Simms. The court has fixed September 9 as the next date for the follow up status call of the case. The jury trial is yet to begin. The court is grating time on requests of the defence and the government. The government is seeking time for the production of additional incriminating material while defence is seeking time for potential resolution of the matter before the filing of a pretrial motion.
If convicted on all counts, he faces a mandatory term of 15 to 160 years in federal prison.
According to the US Department of Justice, 32-year-old Muhammad Luqman Rana persuaded, induced and coerced five minor victims, residing in Maryland, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Washington, and New York to “engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing child pornography and extorted the victims by threatening to injure their reputation.”
The accused is a resident of Peace Village, the Canadian headquarters of the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya. According to the charge sheet, a copy of which is available with Religion Observer, the incidents took place between June 2014 and June 2016, when Rana was in the final year of his seven-year-long missionary course at Jamia Ahmadiyya, Canada.
The Justice Department’s office of international affairs worked with law enforcement partners in Canada to secure Rana’s arrest in Canada and his extradition to the United States. The investigation was conducted jointly by the FBI and Toronto Police Services.
The court documents in the case were sealed until January 26, 2022, when Rana was produced before the US District Court in Baltimore before Magistrate Judge A. David Copperthite. In presence of the accused, an assistant attorney of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, the US Attorney for the District of Maryland, a special agent in charge of the FBI, and the chief of the Toronto Police Service announced the charges.
According to the indictment documents, he was charged with five counts of production of child pornography and five counts of extortion by the threat to injure the reputation. These charges were framed under sections 2251(a), 875(d), 2253, and 981(a)(1)(c) of title 18 of the US Code; section 853(p) of title 21 of the US code; and section 2461(c) of title 28 of the US code.
Reportedly, Canadian police arrested Rana on March 24, 2017, for extorting a teenage girl into sending him sexual photos and videos of herself. The police arrested him after receiving information from the National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre in Ottawa. He was allegedly using the email address kingcheetah01hotmail.com online. According to Jamaat sources, who requested not to be named, after his arrest in 2017, Rana was ousted from the Jamaat but was later restored and given an assignment at a Mississauga place of worship.
Graduates of Jamia Ahmadiyya
Jamia Ahmadiyya Canada prepares Ahmadi missionaries like other Ahmadi seminaries in Pakistan, India, England, Ghana, Germany, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. Other than small courses, they offer a main seven-year program known as Shahid (The Witness). The medium of the course is Urdu. They charge no fee and offer free accommodation to the students. Only Ahmadi males between 17 to 20 years and having education equal to grade 12 (Canada) with 70% marks are eligible to apply. The candidates are required to give a written undertaking of Waqf (pledge to dedicate his life to serving the Jamaat).
The admission committee sends its recommendations to the community head in the UK who gives final approval for admission. For successful completion of the program, the students are required to spend six months in the field as interns with some missionaries, ideally in some African country, and six months in the UK in the company of their community head. After completion of the program, with the approval of their community head, the successful students are awarded degrees of Shahid and title of missionary. The community head himself deputes the missionaries to different countries through Tehrik-e-Jadid, which has its head office in Rabwa, Pakistan. The missionaries are directly in contact with the community head and send him their monthly progress reports.
The writer studied Religion, Culture & Global Justice. He can be reached by Twitter: @RanaTanver