Two Muslim clerics could easily resume collecting money and providing financial support to the Pakistani Taliban terrorist group if they are released on bail, a federal prosecutor told a judge Friday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Shipley said even with bail restrictions it would be difficult stop 76-year-old Hafiz Muhammad Sher Ali Khan and his son, 24-year-old Izhar Khan, from sending more money overseas for Taliban fighters or tapping into assets the elder Khan has in Pakistan. Both are imams at South Florida mosques.
"There's no way to monitor that. There is no way to prevent that," Shipley told U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan at a bail hearing.
The elder Khan's attorney, Khurrum Wahid, countered that Jordan could simply order the men not to do any such financial transactions and even have blocking devices attached to telephones that would prevent overseas calls. Wahid is seeking release for the older Khan on $750,000 bail, while the son is proposing $500,000 bail, both with electronic monitoring and house arrest.
"I think steps could be taken here where Mr. Khan is told not do any fund-raising of any sort," Wahid said.
Jordan said he would rule on the bail requests by July 11. The judge asked whether the elder Khan deserved bail, given FBI recordings in which he appears to advocate violence against the Pakistani government and Americans.
The defense attorney dismissed Khan's comments as the rant of a cranky older man.
"There's no question that Mr. Khan is not unlike many of our grandparents," Wahid said. "They may go off and be less than politically correct. But it does not mean those statements are linked to the Pakistani Taliban."
Shipley, however, said there's no question on the recordings that Khan supports violence and gives specific instructions on who gets his money and how it is to be spent. And the younger Khan, he added, is part of the network that carried out those orders.
"There's no confusion about these charges. The evidence against Hafiz Khan is overwhelming, and it was the assistance of people like Izhar that enabled him to send money over there," the prosecutor said.
The two men and another son, Irfan Khan, have pleaded not guilty to four terrorism support charges, each of which carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence. A daughter of Hafiz Khan, her son and another man also face charges, but they remain in Pakistan. Irfan Khan has a bail hearing set for July 15.
The Pakistani Taliban has been linked to al-Qaida and has been involved in several terrorist attacks against the U.S., including a December 2009 suicide bombing at a base in Khost, Afghanistan. The group also played a role in the failed May 2010 attempt by Faisal Shahzad to detonate a bomb in New York's Times Square.
The investigation into the Khans began when suspicious financial activity was first discovered in 2008, according to court documents. Investigators have identified at least $50,000 allegedly funneled by the group to the Pakistani Taliban, but prosecutors have said there is probably much more.
Curt Anderson is on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt