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'Until proven guilty, he is innocent,' Suspect in Elnaz Hajtamiri case seeks bail

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The case of Elnaz Hajtamiri's alleged kidnapping has taken another turn as one of the five men charged in connection with the incident is now seeking bail.

Akash Rana, 25, from Delta, B.C., was arrested earlier this month and charged with aggravated assault and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence in the alleged assault and failed abduction attempt on the 37-year-old woman in her Richmond Hill parking garage in December 2021.

The attack left Hajtamiri with a head wound requiring roughly 40 stitches.

"Until proven guilty, he is innocent," said Rana's defence lawyer, Gurpreet Mangat, from outside the Newmarket courthouse Friday morning.

READ: Complete details on the Elnaz Hajtamiri investigation

On January 12, 2022, just weeks after the parking garage attack, investigators say Hajtamiri was forcibly taken from a Wasaga Beach home where she'd been in hiding with loved ones after learning tracking devices were found on her vehicle in Richmond Hill.

She hasn't been seen or heard from since, her whereabouts a mystery.

In the Newmarket courtroom Friday, Rana's lawyer expressed concern for his client's safety being jailed in the same Lindsay facility as two other accused men, Harshdeep Binner and Harshpreet Sekhon.

Binner was charged last year with attempted murder and attempted kidnapping.

Sekhon was arrested last month and faces the same charges as Rana in connection to the alleged frying pan attack.

Police say another man, Riyasat Singh, pleaded guilty last year to aggravated assault in connection with the frying pan attack and has since been deported.

Hajtamiri's former boyfriend, Mohamad Lilo, whom police say runs a shipping container business, is charged with attempted murder, kidnapping and criminal harassment. He's been behind bars since July.

Police are appealing to the public for help tracking down three more suspects, including 35-year-old Toronto man Deshawn Davis.

York Regional and Ontario Provincial Police are offering a $100,000 reward for information to help crack the case.

Rana's bail hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, with his lawyer confident he will be released on bail with a surety lined up.

The allegations against the remaining accused have not been tested in court.

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