Mechanic denies lying to agents in US terrorism probe
A car mechanic has been charged with lying to federal agents who were investigating his shipments of medical supplies to his native Pakistan.
Farheed Ahmed Khan, 60, of Manchester, was indicted by a grand jury September 6 on one count of making a false statement in a terrorism investigation.
His lawyer, Faisal Gill, denies his client lied or had anything to do with terrorism.
"It is such a nothing case," Gill said. "I can barely contain my outrage that this is even going to trial. They haven't alleged he was sending anything to any terrorist groups in Pakistan. I'm trying to see where the terrorism link comes in."
Homeland Security agents were investigating whether Khan's shipments of medical equipment were intended to support terrorism-related activities or organisations, Homeland Security agent Christopher Evans testified in an affidavit.
Agents looking into where Khan received the money to buy the medical equipment found "significant unexplained cash deposits" in his bank account between 2007 and 2015 that totaled over $200,000 and came from outside Connecticut, including from Texas, California, and British Columbia, according to Evans.
Evans testified that Homeland Security learned Khan had "expressed the belief that all Muslims should support jihad, including through fundraising" and that a confidential source saw Khan at a charity event wearing a scarf that included an image of the Israeli flag with an X over it.
"Khan explained that the event provided him with a great opportunity to show all Muslim people that Muslims needed to take action against Israel and that Muslims should condemn Israel," Evans said in the affidavit.
As part of its probe, Homeland Security investigated what it says was Khan's association with the Muslim advocacy organisation that ran that event, the Islamic Circle of North America, in an effort to determine whether any money was being embezzled from that group.
The organisation did not return telephone and email messages seeking comment.
When agents interviewed Khan, Evans said, he told them he was not affiliated with the Islamic Circle and shipped only clothes to family members in Pakistan.
In October 2015, the FBI raided Khan's Manchester home and a barn on the property, where neighbours said he repaired cars. They removed boxes of files and other items that Evans said confirmed his connection to the Islamic Circle.
Gill said Khan was just a volunteer with the charity, which had nothing to do with his medical supply venture. Khan, who is free on $50,000 bond, declined to speak with a reporter, Gill said.
Khan said he was sending the medical supplies, which included endoscopes and surgical equipment, to a third party who sold them to hospitals. He questioned whether Khan became a target of investigators because he is Muslim.
"He is not a rich man. Had a business opportunity," Gill said. "The government is just trying to make it look as if he's doing something nefarious."
Khan, who became a naturalised US citizen in 2003, is well known in Connecticut's Muslim community for his charity and fundraising work with Islamic Circle, said Refai Arefin, imam of the Islamic Association of Greater Hartford.
Khan does not have radical political beliefs, and the idea that he would be linked to terrorism is "impossible," said Arefin, who is also an attorney.
"I think there are political interests in pursuing Islamic organisations," he said. "They have investigated ICNA, probably hundreds of times. If the government had any evidence against ICNA, they would have pursued a case against them, but they obviously don't. So, I think they are going after their volunteers. That's what this case is."
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