Miami feds fight defense plan to question witnesses in Pakistan for South Florida terrorism case

October 22, 2012

The Miami Herald on October 21, 2012 released the following:

“Federal prosecutors are fighting the defense’s plan to question key witnesses in Pakistan in a Miami case accusing two South Florida Muslim clerics of aiding the Taliban.

BY JAY WEAVER []

Two South Florida Muslim clerics — a father and son separated by more than 50 years in age — are struggling to persuade a Miami federal judge to allow their lawyers to travel to Pakistan to question alleged Taliban sympathizers who might help their defense against terrorism charges.

Lawyers for Hafiz Khan and Izhar Khan, former imams of mosques in Miami and Margate, have already lost their first bid to travel with federal prosecutors to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad to take depositions from five witnesses who do not want to come to Miami to testify at the upcoming trial.

Among the potential witnesses are two other Khan family members and another suspected Taliban supporter who were accused in the same case of conspiring to aid the Taliban with money and guns.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Robert Scola rejected the defense’s initial deposition plan — which was strongly opposed by federal prosecutors — as “unsafe and impractical.” But Scola left open the possibility for the defense’s alternative: allowing the Khans’ lawyers to question the witnesses at a hotel such as the Marriott in Islamabad in a live, videotaped deposition with the prosecutors participating from Miami.

“If there is a way for you to take their deposition, I’m going to let you do it,” Scola said, setting the stage for a final hearing Oct. 29.

The clock is ticking, however, because the “material-support” trial that initially drew national headlines is scheduled for early January. Bottom line, the defense said: No deposition, no fair trial.

“These witnesses are so important if we’re going to have any defense,” Izhar Khan’s lawyer, Joseph Rosenbaum, told the judge. “Without [the deposition], we don’t have a shot.”

Rosenbaum argued that that the prosecutors oppose any deposition of the Pakistani witnesses because their testimony could poke holes in the government’s case, which is built on phone recordings of the Khan family’s alleged network of fundraising for the Taliban, a U.S.-designated terrorist group.

He further argued that witnesses would provide “context” for the phone calls, proving that the defendants wired about $50,000 from Miami to Pakistan to aid schools and families in the embattled northwest territory known as the Swat Valley — not to fund the Taliban’s violence against the U.S. government interests in the region.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Pat Sullivan and John Shipley said in court they were opposed to any deposition, even if it were taken at a modern hotel in Islamabad. They declined to say why at Thursday’s hearing.

In court documents, they opposed the defense’s initial deposition plan, saying Pakistan is dangerous and that the witnesses could not be questioned at the U.S. Embassy because of their involvement in the alleged crime of aiding the Taliban. A fourth witness for the defense, Noor Mohammed, is suspected of being a Taliban soldier, and a fifth is a Pakistani pharmacist who received some of the money transfers from Hafiz Khan’s foreign bank accounts.

On Thursday, the prosecutors called an FBI witness who served at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad over the past year to testify about the safety risks of taking the deposition there as well as outside the diplomatic zone.

In court papers, they argued: “The entirety of the government’s case against these defendants concerns the Pakistani Taliban’s hostility, animosity and lethality towards United States citizens.”

By contrast, Rosenbaum called two female professors from the University of Colorado and University of Illinois who testified that Islamabad was a modern city of diplomats, business people and relative wealth. The witnesses said the city would be safe for both prosecutors and defense attorneys to conduct the deposition in an off-site hotel.

But Scola kept raising the question about whether it would be safe for U.S. prosecutors to travel to Pakistan if the public knew the purpose of the trip: Gathering testimony for a high-profile terrorism trial in Miami against alleged Taliban supporters.

“The question is whether it is safe for prosecutors to go to Pakistan,” said Scola, who also noted the well-known case of a teenage girl, Malala Yousufzai, who was recently shot in the head by the Taliban to silence her because she advocated education for girls.

The Miami terrorism indictment was filed with much fanfare in May 2011. Prosecutors charged Hafiz Khan, 77, former imam of the Flagler Mosque in Miami; Izhar Khan, 25, the one-time leader of the Masjid Jammat Al-Mumineen mosque in Margate; his sister, Amina Khan; her son, Alam Zeb; and Ali Rehman with conspiring to provide financial support for the Taliban from 2008 to 2010.

In June of this year, prosecutors dropped the charges against the elder Khan’s son, Irfan Khan, a one-time Miami cab driver, without explanation. Khan, a 39-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, had been detained for almost a year before obtaining bail last April.

The FBI used a confidential informant, bank transfer records and more than 1,000 wiretapped phone calls to build the case against the Khan family and others.

In Pakistan, Hafiz Kahn’s daughter, Amina, and her son, Zeb, have said the federal case distorted the patriarch’s good deeds to help their family and relatives. Zeb, 20, said money sent from Miami was meant to repair a religious school founded by his grandfather and to help poor relatives rebuild houses damaged in fighting between the Pakistan army and the Taliban.

But the conspiracy indictment portrays Hafiz Khan as a talkative Muslim spiritual leader who solicited thousands of dollars from donors in the United States, directed family members to help disburse them and openly discussed deadly plots against foes who disagreed with strict Islamic law, or Sharia.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Feds drop terrorism charges against Miami cab driver accused of aiding Taliban

June 14, 2012

The Miami Herald on June 13, 2012 released the following:

“Federal prosecutors have dropped charges against a member of a South Florida family accused of supporting the Pakistani Taliban, a designated terrorist group.

BY JAY WEAVER
JWEAVER@MIAMIHERALD.COM

A one-time Miami cab driver who was detained for nearly a year on charges alleging that he provided aid to Pakistani Taliban terrorists won’t face trial, after federal prosecutors dropped the case against him, according to a dismissal order filed Wednesday.

The U.S. attorney’s office provided no reason for dismissing charges against Irfan Khan, 39, a U.S. citizen who is married with two children. The one-paragraph dismissal order was signed Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Robert Scola.

“We are unable to comment on the internal deliberations that led to our decision,” said Alicia Valle, special counsel to U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer. “However, the charges against his co-defendants remain in place and trial is pending for those defendants in U.S. custody.”

Khan was arrested in May 2011 in Los Angeles, where he was working part-time in a software computer job. He was indicted on charges of conspiring with his father and brother, imams who led two mosques in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and three others to provide financial support to the Pakistani Taliban, a designated terrorist organization.

Khan had been detained in the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami until April, when he was granted a bond by a federal magistrate judge.

“Irfan is obviously pleased that the government has recognized what we’ve long known — that he did not send any money to Pakistan to aid the Taliban,” said his attorney, Miami acting federal public defender Michael Caruso. “His happiness is tempered by his father and brother’s continued imprisonment, but he looks forward to rebuilding his life with his wife and two young children.”

Last year, Irfan Khan; his father, Hafiz Khan, 77, the former leader of a Miami mosque; his brother, Izhar Khan, 25, the one-time head of a Margate mosque; and three others were charged with conspiring to collect and send at least $50,000 from South Florida to the Taliban between 2008 and 2010. The other defendants — all believed to be living in Pakistan — are Irfan Khan’s sister, Amina Khan; her son, Alam Zeb; and Ali Rehman.

Irfan Khan, in particular, was accused of making four wire transfers — for $990, $980, $980, and $500 — to Pakistan, including one to his sister.

The FBI used a confidential informant, bank transfer records and more than 1,000 wiretapped phone calls to build the case, which made national headlines.

The Taliban has been accused of attacking both U.S. and Pakistani interests. It has been linked to al-Qaida, and is suspected of playing a role in the failed May 2010 attempt to bomb New York’s Times Square.

Last August, U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan ordered that Hafiz Khan, the elderly Muslim cleric, and both of his sons remain in custody until trial. Jordan said evidence against the two younger Khans was less compelling than that against their father. But the judge decided the case was still strong enough to warrant detention, citing their danger to the community and risk of flight.

In April, however, Magistrate Judge Patrick White released Irfan Khan from detention to home confinement on a combined bond package totaling about $700,000. White granted the bond after prosecutors agreed to the terms proposed by Khan’s lawyers in exchange for their dropping his appeal.

His father and brother are still locked up and prohibited from having contact with each other in the federal detention center.

Their trial, a complex case built on wiretaps authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is set for early November.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.