MIAMI (CBS4) – A pair of South Florida imams, religious leaders at their respective mosques, sat quietly in handcuffs in Miami federal court during their first appearance on charges related to alleged terrorist acts.
Khurrum Wahid, who is representing 76-year old Hafiz Khan, has vowed to prove his innocence.
“I have no question that through this process we are going to be able to vindicate Mr. Khan. I believe in the presumption of innocence and quite frankly there’s nothing more un-American than presuming someone guilty and that’s why we have this process,” said Wahid.
Sitting in handcuffs next to Khan in the courtroom was his son, 24-year old Izhar Khan, an imam at a mosque in Margate. Izhar Khan was among those named in federal indictment which accused a group of six people of funneling more than $50 thousand to the Taliban in Pakistan.
Also named in the indictment was Irfan Khan, another of Hafiz’s sons, who was arrested in Los Angeles. Irfan Khan will be arraigned in an LA courtroom on Thursday.
Still on the loose, presumably in Pakistan, are Ali Rehman, aka “Faisal Ali Rehman;” Alam Zeb; and Amina Khan, aka “Amina Bibi”. Amina Khan is the daughter of Hafiz Khan and her son, Alam Zeb, is Khan’s grandson.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office the money sent by this group to Pakistan was used to buy guns and fund a madrassa (religious school) owned by Hafiz Khan which sheltered terrorists and trained children to kill Americans.
“None of those types of activities have ever occurred with the sanction of the Muslim Community Association on this property,” said Asad Bayunus.
Bayunus said no member of the mosque on Flagler Street in Miami where Hafiz Khan was an imam had any clue this type of thing may have been going on. He said the charges seem completely uncharacteristic for their prayer leader.
“I don’t think that anyone thinks that he’s capable, I don’t think that the government has even proven that he’s capable of it,” said Bayunus. “And I think to suggest that he is or anyway complicit in it. Until the government proves it case is extremely premature.”
The indictment does not charge the mosques themselves with any wrongdoing and the individual defendants are charged based on their provision of material support to terrorism, not on their religious beliefs or teachings.
During Monday’s hearing federal Magistrate Barry Garber gave the Khans until May 23rd to find a lawyer for Izhar and prepare for a detention hearing. Wahid said one of his first goals will be to get his client out of solitary confinement.
“He is 76 years old, he is hard of hearing, he has poor eyesight, he has a heart condition, cholesterol issues and we’re very concerned about his health,” said Wahid.
If convicted, each faces a potential 15 years in prison for each count of the indictment.