MIAMI (CBS4) — A Muslim cleric in Florida has pleaded not guilty to charges of supporting the Pakistani Taliban terrorist group.
The plea was entered Friday in Miami federal court by 24-year-old Izhar Khan, imam of a mosque in suburban Margate.
Khan’s 76-year-old father Hafiz Muhammad Sher Ali Khan previously pleaded not guilty. Khurrum Wahid, who is representing 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.
Another of his sons, 37-year-old Irfan Khan, is expected in Miami next week following his arrest in May in Los Angeles.
The Khans and three other people living in Pakistan are charged with conspiracy and providing material support to the Pakistani Taliban. Prosecutors say they provided at least $50,000 to the terror group that has been involved in numerous violent attacks and plots.
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.
All three are being held without bail. The four charges carry 15-year maximum prison terms.
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