May 17, 2011 / 12:02 AM / in 8 years

Imam, son in US court over Pakistani Taliban charges

MIAMI (Reuters) - A 76-year-old Florida imam and his son were ordered on Monday to appear next week in a U.S. federal court where they face charges of providing support for the Pakistani Taliban.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Garber scheduled a May 23 pre-detention hearing for Pakistan-born Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, the imam, or spiritual leader, of the Miami Mosque, and his son Izhar Khan, 24, who is also an imam at another mosque in Florida.

The two accused, who were making their first court appearance in Miami since being arrested on Saturday, will be kept in custody until their next court appearance, Garber ordered. Both are U.S. citizens.

The defense lawyer for Hafiz Khan said his client intended to plead not guilty.

The pair were among six people, including three other family members of Hafiz Khan, who were indicted on charges they conspired to provide money and support for the Pakistani Taliban, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States.

Hafiz Khan’s grandson, Alam Zeb, 19, who is one of three of the accused at large in Pakistan, has denied the charges, saying the family was only helping victims of war.

Pakistani authorities questioned Zeb on Monday.

The charges against the six were revealed at a time when U.S. relations with Pakistan are strained over the U.S. raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last week.

HEALTH ISSUES

Both the imam and his son were handcuffed and chained and wore beige prison uniforms and Muslim prayer caps.

Hafiz Khan, who wore thick eyeglasses, looked pale. An Urdu-English interpreter translated for him as he listened through a headset.

Hafiz Khan’s defense lawyer, Khurrum Wahid, said he was working to get his client’s release on health grounds.

“He (Hafiz Khan) is 76. He is hard of hearing, he has poor eyesight, he has a heart condition, cholesterol issues, so we are very concerned about his health,” Wahid told reporters after the brief hearing before Garber.

The lawyer added that the imam did not speak good English and was being held in a special high-security jail unit.

“It is a solitary confinement situation and quite frankly an old man, even a younger man, would have a very difficult time in the current environment that he is in. So we are working to get him out,” Wahid said.

Another of Hafiz Khan’s sons, Irfan Khan, 37, who was arrested on Saturday in Los Angeles, made his first court appearance in the California city.

The other three charged included a daughter and a grandson of Hafiz Kahn.

The indictment against the six made public on Saturday charged them with creating a network that transferred funds from the United States to Pakistani Taliban supporters and fighters in Pakistan, including for the purpose of buying arms.

If convicted, each faces up to 15 years in prison for each count of the indictment.

Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Paul Simao

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