MIAMI — Witnesses will testify live from Pakistan via video beamed to a federal courtroom as part of the defense case in the trial of a Muslim cleric accused of financially supporting the Pakistani Taliban.
U.S. District Judge Robert Scola approved the unusual testimony in the case of 77-year-old imam Hafiz Khan. The first five witnesses will be questioned beginning Feb. 11 at an Islamabad hotel, and jurors will watch on courtroom TV screens. Scola said Tuesday the arrangement is costing taxpayers about $130,000.
Khan is on trial for allegedly funneling at least $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban, listed by the U.S. as a terrorist group linked to al-Qaida. Khan insists the money was for innocent purposes, and the Pakistani witnesses are expected to back that up. If convicted, Khan faces up to 15 years in prison on each of four counts.
Four of the witnesses that will begin testifying on Feb. 11 are alleged by prosecutors to be Taliban members or sympathizers, including Khan’s daughter Amina Khan. She and two of the others are charged in the same U.S. case as their father, but Pakistan has refused to arrest them, federal prosecutors say.
“We have no information that’s going to happen,” Sullivan said.
Earlier, prosecutors dropped charges against one of Khan’s sons, and Scola earlier this month dismissed the case against a second son because of insufficient evidence. Trial of the elder Khan is expected to last through most of February.