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S. Fla. Brothers Plead Not Guilty To Terrorism Charges

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Raees Qazi (left)  and Sheheryar Qazi (right). (Source: BSO)

Raees Qazi (left) and Sheheryar Qazi (right). (Source: BSO)

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South Florida Crime

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Two Oakland Park brothers accused of having ties to terrorism entered not guilty pleas in Fort Lauderdale federal court Friday morning.

The men arrested last week are 30-year-old Sheheryar Alam Qazi and 20-year-old Raees Alam Qazi.

They are accused of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and of attempting to obtain a weapon of mass destruction for use within the U.S.

“Today was his arraignment where he pled not guilty and the detention hearings were continued,” said Sheheryar Qazi’s attorney Ron Chapman.

For now, both will be held without bond.

Prosecutors said the two are naturalized U.S. citizens originally from Pakistan, but have lived in South Florida for years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Gilbert disclosed in court papers that the case was built on U.S. government surveillance of the brothers’ phones, including presumably their conversations with foreign contacts. The evidence was obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a law that has been strengthened in the post-9/11 era for prosecution of terrorism cases.

Prosecutors said that starting in July 2011; the brothers conspired to provide transportation, money, lodging and other aid toward a plan to use a large-scale weapon somewhere in the United States.

“Any potential threat posed by these two individuals has been disrupted, ” Wifredo Ferrer, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said in a statement issued last Friday. “Since September 11, 2001, the top priority of the Department of Justice and this U.S. Attorney’s Office has been to deter and prosecute acts of terrorism.”

A source told CBS4’s Jim DeFede the weapon of mass destruction “was not biological, chemical, or radioactive.” Rather, it was a “home-made” type of device.

The source said the FBI decided to move abruptly against the two men because, “there was a serious threat” posed by them and they appeared ready to carry out an attack here in South Florida. There were specific targets in mind; but the source wouldn’t identify them as the investigation is ongoing.

The source also said “at no time was South Florida at risk because we were on to it.”

Their brother told CBS4 News it’s not true.

“I know my brothers are innocent. They never did anything wrong. We live together. We try to make a life here every day.”

Shehereyar has a one year old son and according to his brother, is a hard worker and family man, not a “want to be” terrorist.

“He drives taxi every day, he comes home plays with him he has a beautiful wife.”

The younger brother Raees is looking for a job.

Attorneys’ for both men are keeping quiet for now and waiting to learn more about the government’s case against the brothers.

“Mr. Qazi asked that I not make a statement on his behalf at this time.  As information becomes available and it’s appropriate to speak with the press, I’ll do that,” said Ron Chapman.

They could face up to 15 years in prison on the conspiracy charge and up to life in prison on the weapon of mass destruction charge.

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