Live video testimony from Pakistan planned for defense witnesses in Fla. terror support trial

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.

 

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.

Americans Rally for Hijab & Hoodie Victims

CONNECTICUT – United by grief and anger, dozens of Yale students rose up Thursday, April 5, against discrimination and racism, hosting a “Hoodies and Hijabs” day in protest of the murder of Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi.

“Being discriminated against for wearing certain types of clothing, or coming from certain religious or racial backgrounds is unacceptable,” the announcement by the Yale Muslim Students Association, cited by Yale Daily News, read.

The event was held to protest the killing of Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old mother of five, who was found unconscious on March 21 in the living room of their home in El Cajon in San Diego County.

Three days later, she was declared dead after taking her off life support.

Police said that hate crime was an option after an apparently xenophobic note was found beside the body of the Iraqi mother.

Considering other options, hate crime remained the highest possibility considered by community activists who pointed to a history of violence and intimidation toward the local Muslim community.

Yale students also rallied on behalf of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teenager who was shot on Feb. 26
Trayvon, an unarmed black Miami teenager who donned a hoodie, was shot to death more than a month ago by George Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer in Sanford.

Florida mulls outlaw of Shariah, other foreign laws; critics say bill addresses made-up threat

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A measure to ban the use of foreign laws in domestic courtrooms is progressing in Florida’s statehouse, one of dozens of similar efforts across the country that critics call an unwarranted campaign driven by fear of Muslims.

Forty such bills are being pursued in 24 states, according to a tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures, a movement opponents call a response to a made-up threat of Shariah law, the Islamic legal code that covers many areas of life. Backers of the bills say they fill a glaring hole in legal protections for Americans.

If passed, Florida would join three other states — Louisiana, Arizona and Tennessee — in approving legislation curtailing the use of foreign laws. An Oklahoma ballot measure got 70 percent approval, but it goes a step further in specifically mentioning Sharia, the Islamic system of law. A federal court has blocked the measure’s implementation until its constitutionality is determined.

“It’s a waste of time and irrelevant legislation,” said Nezar Hamze, head of the Miami chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “But the motive behind it is very troubling.”

2 Muslim clerics accused of financial support for Pakistani Taliban again seek release on bail

MIAMI — Two Muslim clerics accused of providing financial support to the Pakistani Taliban terrorist group are again seeking release on bail.

A hearing was set Friday in Miami federal court for 76-year-old Hafiz Muhammad Sher Ali Khan and his son, 24-year-old Izhar Khan. Both are imams at South Florida mosques. They have been in solitary confinement since their May 14 arrests.

A magistrate judge in May ordered both men held without bail until trial. Their lawyers say prosecutors have scant evidence that they pose any threat or would flee to Pakistan rather than stand trial.
A second son charged in the case, Irfan Khan, will have a bail hearing July 15. Three other people, including a daughter and grandson of the elder Khan, are also charged but remain in Pakistan.

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.

Understanding Angela Merkel

by *Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff*

October 21, 2010

*WASHINGTON* — Angela Merkel, German chancellor, is said to be the most
powerful woman on earth. But even by these standards, the global media
tsunami that followed her remarks about the failure of multiculturalism
in Germany must have caught her by surprise. Her every word was
dissected in every corner of the world, and here is how that reads: /The
Australian/ found that Merkel “rejected the idea of cultural pluralism.”
Columnist Esther J. Cepeda of the Washington Post Writers Group
understood that Merkel called “the very idea” of immigrants living
“happily side by side” with native-born Germans “an illusion.” Russia’s
/RT TV/ asked, “Is diversity dead?” The /Miami Herald/ translated her
remark to mean, “Muhammad, go home.” And, adding some historical
gravitas, the paper concluded, “We should all be alive to the grim
historical resonance of a German chancellor declaring the idea of
disparate cultures living peaceably side by side a failure. What, after
all, is the alternative? Shall Germany officially declare itself a
nation with room enough for one culture only? For the record, that’s
been tried already. And it didn’t work so well, either.”

Got that. Been tried. Didn’t work. Which then raises the question: Why
would an otherwise moderate woman adopt the views of the modern-day
anti-immigrant populists? Why would she endorse a position that could be
called relativist at best and racist at worst? Is it simply her Germanic
gene, as the /Miami Herald’s/ op-ed historians seem to suggest? The
answer is simple — Angela Merkel is not the woman she is currently made
out to be. It is time to consider what she really said and really meant.
It is time to put her remarks into context.

[Continue Reading]

Padilla Gets 17 Years in Conspiracy Case

MIAMI – Jose Padilla, the Brooklyn-born convert to Islam whom the government once accused of plotting to detonate a dirty bomb in the United States, was sentenced on Tuesday to 17 years and 4 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to help Islamic jihadist fighters abroad. The sentence was more lenient than the federal sentencing guidelines recommended and was a setback for the government, which had requested life in prison, the maximum.

Jury selected for Padilla trial

An ethnically diverse panel will hear the case against the alleged Al Qaeda operative and two co-defendants. A jury of five blacks, four whites and three Latinos with a broad array of jobs, political leanings and assumptions about terrorism will hear the government’s case against alleged Al Queda operative Jose Padilla. The panel was selected Tuesday after weeks of contentious wrangling among the 15 attorneys representing the government, Padilla and his two co-defendants, with the government and defense teams accusing each other of racial and religious profiling in picking jurors. Padilla, a 36-year-old former Chicago gang member, and two Arabs are accused of conspiring to kill foreign enemies of Islam. The 12 jurors and six alternates will begin hearing testimony Monday in a case expected to last four months and draw witnesses from the intelligence and security communities, including a covert CIA operative planning to testify in disguise. U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke excused dozens of potential jurors during the protracted search for a fair and balanced panel because of the hardships they would endure if separated from their jobs or family obligations each workday through the end of August. Anyone with a scheduled vacation, an ill relative needing attention or a child-care conflict was dismissed, although Cooke said she would not sequester the jury. By court order, the identities of the jurors cannot be made public. The seven men and five women expressed varying degrees of willingness to serve on the panel. A delivery dispatcher in her 30s said her boss was furious that she missed one day last week for the questioning. Another juror, a young insurance adjuster, told Cooke that he and his fiance were getting married next month but he had not planned a honeymoon in case he was needed on the jury. “That’s a young man who really takes his civic responsibilities seriously,” Cooke quipped after a day in which juror after juror asked to be excused for far less momentous occasions. Throughout Tuesday’s protracted use of peremptory challenges – 30 for the government and 36 for lawyers representing Padilla and co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi – the attorneys repeatedly objected to each other’s dismissals. Defense attorneys noted the prosecution rejected seven black female jurors in a row, while the government team accused the defense of striking white and Latino men in what they saw as a “pattern of prejudice.” Jurors have a range of incomes, from an unemployed former busboy and a department store makeup artist to a software developer. There is religious diversity as well: Catholics, Baptists, a Seventh-day Adventist and one man who said he was intimately familiar with Jewish issues, although he did not make clear if that was his faith. The ethnicity of the panel was a topic of special contentiousness because Miami’s large Latino community includes exiles and emigres who fled repressive governments in Latin America and tend to cast an uncritical eye on the U.S. criminal justice system. But several of the jurors expressed doubts about the consistency and reliability of government and law enforcement work, disclosing run-ins with the law in individual questioning since jury selection began April 16. “There are a lot of people who are incarcerated who shouldn’t be there because they didn’t commit the crimes they are accused of,” said a young black female juror with several relatives on Miami-area police forces. A 40-ish man who is an Internet company chief financial officer told Cooke he thought the growth of Muslim clerical schools in the Middle East had contributed to a trend toward violence in Islam; but he added that “if you go back throughout history, they were one of the more temperate religions for hundreds of years.” “The war in Iraq is for profit and oil, not because of WMD,” a young Latino college student who works for a cable TV company said of the administration’s reason for invading Iraq. A black man of about 50 who manages a chain of service stations and has a nephew serving in Iraq conceded he might have an inclination to stereotype Muslims but assured Cooke he would seek to be fair. “We’re very pleased with the jury that was selected. I think it is a very diverse panel,” said Linda Moreno, a lawyer hired by Hassoun’s defense team to serve as a jury consultant. Moreno helped win a not guilty verdict from a Tampa jury two years ago in the terrorism case brought against Sami Al-Arian, a professor of computer engineering at the University of South Florida. One of the alternates on the panel was born in Egypt and understands some Arabic, but the only practicing Muslim brought before the lawyers Tuesday was dismissed by the prosecution. Assistant U.S. Atty. John C. Shipley told Cooke the government objected to her service because she had read publications from Yemen, Syria and Iran, which he called “renowned terrorist countries.”