Florida imam pleads not guilty to aiding Taliban
MIAMI — An elderly Miami imam pleaded not guilty in US federal court Monday to charges of supporting the Pakistani Taliban and was ordered held without bail, his lawyer said.
The US government accuses 76-year-old Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, four of his relatives and another person of funneling money and providing support to the group branded by Washington as a foreign terrorist organization.
Khan is the leader of Miami’s oldest mosque. His attorney, Khurrum Wahid, expressed concern about his client being kept in jail.
“He’s 76 years old and has health issues — heart and cholesterol problems,” the lawyer said.
The Pakistani Taliban is engaged in a violent resistance against the Pakistani and US governments. It also has links to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
One of Khan’s sons, 24-year-old Izhar Khan, also appeared in court for the first time since their indictment was unsealed. He is also an imam at a Florida mosque.
US Magistrate Judge Barry Garber scheduled another hearing for May 23.
The six defendants are all Pakistanis, although some of them have US citizenship.
The indictment unveiled Saturday names the older Khan, two sons (Irfan and Izhar Khan), daughter Amina Khan, grandson Alam Zeb and another individual, Ali Rehman.
The arrests and charges against the Pakistanis come amid heightened tensions between Washington and Islamabad following a US commando raid that killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at his hideout deep in Pakistan.