MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – Lawyers for a South Florida Muslim cleric accused of supporting terrorism in his home country are having trouble getting witnesses to travel from Pakistan to Miami to testify on his behalf.
A Miami federal judge will hear arguments Tuesday on whether to allow video depositions to be taken of six witnesses unable to make travel arrangements in time from Pakistan.
Hafiz Khan, 77, and his son Izhar Khan, 26, pleaded not guilty in May 2011 to four charges of conspiracy and material support to terrorism, asserting they were sending financial support to relatives and friends in Pakistan who have struggled for survival — not to terrorists. Each charge carries a 15 year prison sentence.
Earlier this month, all charges were dropped against the younger Khan because the judge ruled there was not enough evidence of wrongdoing. Charges were dismissed last year against another son, Irfan Khan, because of a lack of evidence.
The trial of the elder Khan went forward.
The judge has allowed video testimony from five other defense witnesses who refuse to travel from Pakistan.
Federal prosecutors have opposed the video statements. But Khan’s attorneys said they’re essential to show phone conversations were not about terrorism.
Central to the prosecution’s case against Khan are more than 1,000 phone calls and other communications intercepted by the FBI from 2008 to 2010. Based in large part on those calls, prosecutors say the Khans wired at least $50,000 to help finance the Pakistani Taliban.
Prosecutors say Hafiz Khan founded a religious school, known as a madrassa, in Pakistan’s Swat Valley that was used by the Taliban to train and indoctrinate children in fighting Americans. The madrassa was shut down in 2009 by the Pakistani army.
Linked to al Qaida, the Pakistani Taliban has played roles in several attacks against the U.S., including a December 2009 suicide bombing at a military base in Khost, Afghanistan, that killed seven U.S. citizens, prosecutors said. The group also was connected to the attempt in May 2010 by Faisal Shahzad to detonate a bomb in New York’s Times Square.
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