Trial begins for Muslim cleric, son accused of funneling thousands to Pakistani Taliban

MIAMI — An elderly Muslim cleric and his son funneled thousands of dollars to the Pakistani Taliban to fund killings, kidnappings and suicide bombings “in the name of a perverted form of the Muslim faith,” a prosecutor said Friday.

That was the characterization of Assistant U.S. Attorney John Shipley Jr. while making his opening statement in the trial of Hafiz Khan, 77, and his 26-year old son, Izhar Khan. The elder Khan was imam at a Miami mosque, and his son held the same post at a mosque in suburban Margate.

Both have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and material support to terrorism. Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. The trial is expected to last about two months.

A starkly different picture was painted by Khurrum Wahid, the elder Khan’s defense attorney, and Joseph Rosenbaum, who is representing the son. They argued prosecutors are misinterpreting thousands of phone conversations, intercepts and the bugged conversations of an informant.

Wahid told the jury that the elderly cleric’s words are filled with expressions of love for his madrassa, the school he founded in Pakistan’s Swat Valley decades ago.