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.

 

Prosecutors say indicted Fla. cleric was dedicated financier of violent Pakistani Taliban

MIAMI — Despite a frail and pious appearance, a South Florida Muslim cleric was a dedicated financier of the violent Pakistani Taliban who disliked the “wretched” U.S. and sought the overthrow of Pakistan’s government, a federal prosecutor said in court Monday.

Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, 76, directed how thousands of dollars were to be distributed to militant fighters “down to the dollar” and maintained at least three bank accounts in Pakistan to accept the funds, said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Shipley. More than $200,000 has been deposited in those accounts since 2005, he added, although not all the money is linked to terrorism.

Shipley laid out more details of the case against Khan, his sons Izhar Khan, 24, and 37-year-old Irfan Khan, and three other suspects at a bail hearing. U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Garber ordered Hafiz Khan and Izhar Khan held without bail, agreeing with prosecutors that both present a danger to the community and are at risk of fleeing the country.

Attorneys for Hafiz and Izhar Khan argued that both deserved release on bail, contending that conversations recorded by the FBI could amount to little more than political ranting and that they sent the money to relatives in Pakistan as millions of other immigrants do every day.