MIAMI (AP) – 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.
“He loved that school even more than his own family,” Wahid said. The lawyer added that the elderly cleric was lashing out verbally against those who hurt his people.
“He was speaking in words that were not politically correct,” Wahid said.
Rosenbaum said the government had little evidence and in this case was “just plain wrong.”
Shipley said Hafiz Khan expressed his backing for the Taliban supporter who tried to plant a bomb in New York City’s Times Square in summer 2010. The Pakistani Taliban has been linked to al-Qaida, and authorities say the group was connected to the Times Square bombing attempt.
The father and son are accused of sending more than $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban, which was to be used to help Taliban fighters after a Pakistan army offensive into the Swat Valley in summer 2009.
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