Witness testifies from Pakistan that Florida imam’s money was not for Taliban terrorists

MIAMI — Testifying via video from Pakistan, a man accused by the U.S. of conspiring with an elderly Miami-based Muslim cleric to funnel thousands of dollars to Taliban terrorists insisted Monday the money was for innocent purposes, including a potato chip factory run by the cleric’s son-in-law.

Ali Rehman was the first of as many as 11 witnesses expected to testify from an Islamabad hotel in defense of 77-year-old Hafiz Khan, who faces four terrorism support and conspiracy counts. Rehman is named in the same indictment and refused to come to the U.S. Other witnesses were unable to get U.S. visas in time.

He spoke in Pashto that was translated into English for the 12-person jury watching him on flat-screen televisions.

Rehman kept a three-page ledger detailing most of the transactions, which jurors were shown. “I was just the middle man to give the money to him.”

Rehman said he and Khan disagreed with the Taliban’s tactics of using violence and force to impose their version of Muslim law. Rehman said he was personally threatened by Taliban fighters who ordered him to remove products containing women’s pictures from a cosmetics store he owns.

If convicted, Khan faces up to 15 years in prison on each of four charges. Two of Khan’s sons were originally accused as well, but prosecutors dropped the charges against one and U.S. District Judge Robert Scola dismissed the case against the other for lack of evidence.

Judge dismisses terror charges against Fla. Muslim cleric, citing weak evidence

MIAMI — Citing a lack of evidence, a federal judge on Thursday dismissed terrorism support and conspiracy charges against the younger of two Muslim clerics accused of funneling thousands of dollars to the Pakistani Taliban.

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola ruled that “no rational trier of fact” could convict 26-year-old Izhar Khan, who is imam at a mosque in suburban Margate north of Fort Lauderdale. Trial is continuing against his father, 77-year-old Hafiz Khan. Scola said the evidence against the older Khan is much stronger.

“This court will not allow the sins of the father to be visited upon the son,” Scola wrote in a seven-page order.

Federal prosecutors earlier dropped charges against another of Hafiz Khan’s sons who also had minimal involvement. Izhar Khan’s attorney, Joseph Rosenbaum, said a judge’s dismissal of charges is rare, particularly in a case linked to international terrorism.

Hafiz Khan, imam at a downtown Miami mosque, still faces four terrorism support-related charges that each carry maximum 15-year prison sentences. Prosecutors said Hafiz Khan orchestrated the sending of at least $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban between 2008 and 2010, money that was allegedly used to help mujahedeen fighters attack Pakistani and U.S. targets.

In his order, Scola noted that the older Khan was recorded by the FBI talking “openly and brazenly” about raising money to help overthrow the Pakistani government so that strict Islamic law could be imposed. The recordings showed Hafiz Khan praised suicide bomb attacks in Pakistan and the attempt in May 2010 by Faisal Shahzad to detonate a bomb in New York’s Times Square.

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.

 

Competency exam, hearing set for Florida imam in Pakistani Taliban terror financing case

MIAMI — A mental competency examination has been ordered in the case of a Muslim imam in South Florida accused of raising money for the Pakistani Taliban terror group.

 

A federal judge ordered a psychiatric evaluation of 77-year-old Hafiz Khan to take place by Aug. 31. The judge wants to decide if Khan is able to understand his legal proceedings and if he can assist in his own defense.

 

Khan and one of his sons are charged with providing material support to terrorists by allegedly funneling about $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban. They have pleaded not guilty. Charges were dropped against another of Khan’s sons.

 

The case could be delayed indefinitely if the elder Khan is ruled incompetent to stand trial.

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.