A federal jury has just found a Miami Muslim imam guilty on all four terrorism charges involving his financial support for the Pakistani Taliban, an enemy of the U.S. and Western governments since 9/11.
Miami Herald Hafiz Khan, 77, one-time Muslim leader of the Flagler Mosque in Miami, showed no emotion as the 12 jurors delivered their verdicts following his two-month trial — a subdued demeanor that contrasted with his feisty four days of testimony on the witness stand.
Khan, who faces up to 15 years in prison, was convicted of a plot to send more than $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban to help arm its violent mission against U.S. interests overseas between 2008 and 2010. The prosecution did not need to prove that the Taliban actually received any of that money to finance its violent activities — only that Khan’s phone conversations recorded by the FBI showed he wanted some of the funds to go to the U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
The imam’s defense lawyer expressed disappointment after the verdict. “I feel for my client,” Khurrum Wahid told The Miami Herald. “He really believes he didn’t do anything wrong. I believe he didn’t do anything wrong.” (Of course you don’t, funding jihadists is a requirement for all Muslims)
“They never proved that $1 went to the Taliban; they said his words supported the Taliban,” Wahid added, saying his client’s First Amendment right to free speech was criminalized by the prosecution. “They took his [recorded] statements and said to the jury that they can assume a crime’’ was committed.
Toward the end of the trial, the imam testified that he sent the money to support his religious school, or madrassa, in the Swat Valley area of Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border, and to help his relatives and the poor caught in the crossfire of the war between the Pakistan army and Taliban. But he was also quoted in phone conversations praising the Taliban’s militant actions against the Pakistan and U.S. governments.
Evidence in the case included the defendant’s bank transactions, as well as voluminous FBI-recorded phone conversations he had with a government informant who posed as a Taliban sympathizer.
Khan was found guilty of four counts of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and to a foreign terrorist organization, as well as providing actual support in both conspiracies. His sentencing is set for May 30 before U.S. District Judge Robert Scola, who had said during the trial outside the view of the jurors that the prosecution’s evidence against the imam was “overwhelming.”
At trial and during closing arguments, prosecutors portrayed Khan in the worst possible light: terrorist sympathizer, Taliban supporter and pathological liar. “His whole defense is a lie,” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Shipley told 12 jurors last week. But Khan’s defense attorney argued that his client’s intentions were good and his words were taken out of context.
Khan testified that he lied about his ostensible support for the Pakistani Taliban because he wanted to obtain $1 million from a purported Taliban sympathizer — the FBI informant — to help innocent war victims and his religious school.
Khan, who was unaware his conversations were being recorded, said he wished Americans would die in pursuit of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and that terrorists would destroy the Pakistan government. He was also recorded praising the 2010 Taliban-linked Times Square bombing attempt in New York City.