Margate mosque imam pleads not guilty in terrorism case

MIAMI, Fla. - A Muslim cleric accused along with his father, brother and sister of helping finance the Pakistani Taliban terror group pleaded not guilty Friday to conspiracy and terrorism support charges.

Izhar Khan, 24, entered the plea during a brief hearing in federal court in Miami. His father, 76-year-old Hafiz Muhammad Sher Ali Khan, previously pleaded not guilty. His brother, 37-year-old Irfan Khan, is expected to appear in court next week after being transported from Los Angeles, where he was arrested in May.

Izhar Kahn is imam at a mosque in suburban Margate, while the elder Khan is imam at Miami's oldest mosque. Hafiz Khan's daughter, Amina Khan, and two others indicted in the case are at large in Pakistan, prosecutors said.

All six are charged with providing at least $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban, which has been blamed for numerous violent attacks and plots in Pakistan and against U.S. targets, including the failed attempt to bomb New York's Times Square in May 2010. The four charges carry maximum sentences of 15 years each.

At a separate hearing Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Shipley said the U.S. has substantial classified evidence to introduce at trial. Shipley previously filed papers indicating that key evidence includes FBI recordings of phone calls and other conversations, and possibly physical searches, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The use of classified evidence in court is highly restricted and requires that the Khans' attorneys have security clearances to examine it.

"I believe it's a fairly quick process absent any indications of problems," Shipley said of the clearances.

The alleged conspiracy took place between 2008 and at least November 2010, according to court papers. Prosecutors say Hafiz Khan controlled at least three bank accounts in Pakistan where money was regularly wired and then distributed to Taliban commanders to buy weapons and supplies.

In one conversation on July 20, 2010, Hafiz Khan told an unidentified person in a phone call "how to avoid being detected when sending money to the Pakistani Taliban for guns," according to the indictment. In another 2010 call, Hafiz Khan allegedly asked "whether Pakistani Taliban commanders at a location in Swat had obtained Khan's money."

The system of wiring money to the accounts and then withdrawing it in Pakistan for the Taliban was the only way to finance the organization, Khan allegedly said in a September 2010 phone call.

"He explained that money cannot be sent openly to the Pakistani Taliban, but must instead be sent covertly through its supporters," the indictment says.

 

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