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Florida imam denies sending money to Pakistani terrorists

February 19, 2013|By Michael Muskal
  • A May 16, 2011, artist rendering shows Hafiz Khan, right, and one of his sons, 24-year-old Izhar Khan, in federal court in Miami.
A May 16, 2011, artist rendering shows Hafiz Khan, right, and one of his sons,… (Shirley Henderson / Associated…)

A Muslim imam on Tuesday denied that money he sent to Pakistan was earmarked for terrorist activities in the latest trial to focus on the currency pipeline that officials say moves cash to groups planning attacks on U.S. interests.

Hafiz Khan, 77, told jurors in a federal courtroom in Miami that he rejected the Pakistani Taliban and denied charges that he had sent at least $50,000 to the militant group in support of violent attacks. The defense has argued that the money was for humanitarian goals, including funding for a Muslim religious school.

“We are innocent of these accusations,” said Khan, speaking in Pashto through an interpreter.

“We have no connection with them whatsoever. We hate them,” he told jurors, according to the Associated Press report from the courtroom.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, federal prosecutions of people and groups that raise money or provide other support for overseas terrorists have sharply increased. Khan faces four terrorism support charges that each carry up to 15 years in prison.

The case against Khan is based on FBI wiretaps and recordings that allegedly show  that Khan supported the Pakistani Taliban and praised some of their attacks against the government there. The group has also been linked to U.S. attacks, including a failed 2010 plot to bomb Times Square in New York.

But Khan insisted that he spoke out of anger about Pakistani efforts to close his school, or madrassa, in the Swat Valley and actions by the Pakistani army against the poor in 2009. Khan, who came to the United States in 1994 and became a naturalized citizen, praised the protection of human rights in the United States.

“It is really a good thing to be a citizen of the United States,” Khan said, according to the wire service.

Khan could face prosecution cross-examination as early as Wednesday.

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