U.S. judge denies imams bail in Pakistani case

MIAMI Tue May 24, 2011 1:34am IST

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MIAMI (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Monday denied bail for a 76-year-old Florida imam and his son accused of sending $50,000 to support the Pakistani Taliban.

Pakistan-born Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, the head of one of Miami's leading mosques, and his son, Izhar Khan, who is also an imam at another south Florida mosque, were arrested on May 14.

The two men were among six people, including three other family members of Hafiz Khan, indicted on charges that they conspired to provide money and support for the Pakistani Taliban, which the United States considers a terrorist organization.

The Khans, both U.S. citizens, appeared in a federal court on Monday for a hearing attended by several dozen supporters from their mosques.

"We understood coming in that this would be an uphill battle to get bail," said Khurrum Wahid, a lawyer for Hafiz Khan. "It is a terrorism charge and it had certain legal challenges obviously and certain public relations challenges."

Another of Khan's sons is also under arrest in Los Angeles.

Prosecutors said the men's arrests capped a three-year investigation into suspicious financial transactions and were based on recorded conversations and a trail of money moving from U.S. bank accounts to Pakistan.

The indictment charges the six people with creating a network that transferred money to supporters and fighters of the Pakistani Taliban, including funds to buy arms.

"We haven't heard any of these phone calls ourselves," Wahid said. "We haven't seen these wire transfers. But I'm confident once we do, we're going to have a great opportunity to show the public that this information is being misinterpreted by our government."

Three of the defendants are in Pakistan.

Khan has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which came amid strained relations between the United States and Pakistan following the U.S. raid this month that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin laden this month in a compound not far from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

Prosecutors allege Khan and the others also supported the Pakistani Taliban through a madrassa, or Islamic school, in Swat, Pakistan, which they say was used to house militants.

If convicted, Khan and the others face up to 15 years in prison for each count of the indictment.

(Writing by Kevin Gray; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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