“We always thought he was innocent,” said Fazal Deen, secretary of the Margate mosque. “That’s why we were always here for him. The system proved we were correct.”
“We couldn’t wait for this day,” added Zahid Khan, treasurer of the mosque, who is no relation to the Khan family. “We are very thankful to have him back. He is very good for the youth in our community. We are very much a part of our community.”
Both the son and his father were held in the detention center — much of that time in solitary confinement — since their arrests on charges of funneling about $50,000 to the Taliban to target U.S. interests in Pakistan between 2009 and 2010.
The Taliban allegedly used the funds for buying arms and other ammunition to carry our terrorist attacks against the Pakistan government, a U.S. ally, and other American targets.
At trial, both imams countered that their financial support was intended not for terrorists, but for relatives, friends and schoolchildren in Pakistan who have struggled for survival.
Izhar Khan said that he never understood why he was charged in the case, saying he devoted all of his time to the Muslim faith and mosque community, while teaching children and playing sports.
“I don’t even follow current events,” he said at his lawyer’s office. “I don’t know anything about Pakistan. I don’t even know who the president of that country is now. I’ve never heard of these names they were accusing me of”’ helping.
The government’s case was built largely on FBI-recorded phone conversations between father Hafiz Khan and other members of his family and suspected Taliban sympathizers. A confidential informant who infiltrated Khan’s Miami mosque also secretly recorded their conversations. Khan’s bank records have also been central to the government’s case against him.
Four counts alleging conspiracy and material support for a terrorist organization were filed against the father, and three counts against the son. Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
Charges were dismissed last year against another son, Irfan Khan, because of a lack of evidence. He attended Thursday’s hearing on the acquittal ruling along with another brother, Ikram Khan, who is not charged in the case.
“We very much appreciate the support of the community and want to thank them for their support,” said Irfan Khan, who declined further comment.
Two other Khan family members charged in the case, Amina Khan, a daughter, and Alam Zeb, her son, are in Pakistan. Another defendant, Ali Rehman, accused of distributing Hafiz Khan’s funds to the Taliban, is also in Pakistan.
Asked if he believed federal prosecutors targeted his whole family, Izhar Khan said yes. Then he redirected the answer to himself, saying he was targeted “pretty much because of the way I look. ... Whatever they did was in good faith, but there was a misunderstanding. It was guilt by association because of the way I look.’’
Khan said he is looking forward to resuming his duties at the Margate mosque, playing basketball with the children and finally getting married.
Khan said he could not comment on his father’s ongoing trial, but held out hope for him. “I am just hoping he will get released soon, and that justice will be served,” he said. “Only time will tell.”