MIAMI (AP) — Citing a lack of evidence, a federal judge on Thursday dismissed terrorism support and conspiracy charges against the younger of two Muslim clerics accused of funneling thousands of dollars to the Pakistani Taliban.
U.S. District Judge Robert Scola ruled that "no rational trier of fact" could convict 26-year-old Izhar Khan, who is imam at a mosque in suburban Margate north of Fort Lauderdale. Trial is continuing against his father, 77-year-old Hafiz Khan. Scola said the evidence against the older Khan is much stronger.
"This court will not allow the sins of the father to be visited upon the son," Scola wrote in a seven-page order.
Federal prosecutors earlier dropped charges against another of Hafiz Khan's sons who also had minimal involvement. Izhar Khan's attorney, Joseph Rosenbaum, said a judge's dismissal of charges is rare, particularly in a case linked to international terrorism.
"It shows that the justice system does work despite going against the federal government," Rosenbaum said. "I've always believed Izhar was innocent. The judge really paid attention and the evidence was not there."
Izhar Khan, who has been jailed in since his May 2011 arrest, was immediately freed after the judge's decision.
"I'm happy with the justice system, to say the least, and I think justice was served," he told reporters outside Miami's downtown federal court complex.
Hafiz Khan, imam at a downtown Miami mosque, still faces four terrorism support-related charges that each carry maximum 15-year prison sentences. Prosecutors said Hafiz Khan orchestrated the sending of at least $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban between 2008 and 2010, money that was allegedly used to help mujahedeen fighters attack Pakistani and U.S. targets.