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Miami Muslim cleric convicted of Taliban links

By Garth Kant

Miami Muslim imam Hafiz Khan testified he sent $50,000 to Pakistan not to provide arms for the Taliban but to build a religious school and help the poor and his relatives.

But that’s not what the former cleric at the Flagler Mosque in Miami told an FBI informant pretending to be a Taliban sympathizer.

Khan told the informant he wanted terrorists to destroy the Pakistani government, he wished Americans pursuing Osama bin Laden would die, and he approved of an attempted Times Square bombing in New York City that was linked to the Taliban.

Khan didn’t know the FBI recorded the conversations.

On the stand, Khan testified he lied and merely pretended to support the Taliban, because he was trying to get $1 million from the informant.

Khan testified, “There are many times I am agreeing with him, but that does not mean that I mean it.”

However, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Shipley noted Khan made similar comments in other recorded conversations to friends and relatives.

After a two-month trial, a federal court jury convicted Khan today of four terrorism-related charges. He faces up to 15 years in prison on each charge. The counts included conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and to a foreign terrorist organization, as well as providing actual support in both conspiracies.

The Miami Herald described Khan’s four days of testimony as “often evasive, unresponsive and rambling.”

Shipley called Khan’s testimony absurd.

“The only thing truthful that came out of that testimony is that Hafiz Khan is a liar,” he said.

Prosecutor Sivashree Sundaram told jurors Khan “convicted himself with his own words and actions.”

“These are not the words of a peace-loving man,” he said.

Defense attorney Khurrum Wahid said prosecutors took a few hundred of Khan’s comments out of context, out of the 35,000 conversations recorded.

Khan is a naturalized citizen who came to the U.S. in 1994.

The judge threw out the government’s case against one of Khan’s sons, Izhar Khan, also an imam, citing a lack of evidence. Prosecutors dropped charges last summer against another son, cab driver Irfan Khan, without explanation.