Chicago cabbie supports Kashmir cause: Lawyer

Pak-origin cab driver Raja Lahrasib Khan, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of providing material support to al-Qaeda, "is a supporter of Kashmiri independence."

Updated: Apr 06, 2010, 12:28 PM IST

Chicago: Pakistani-origin cab driver Raja
Lahrasib Khan, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of
providing material support to al-Qaeda, "is a supporter of
Kashmiri independence" and is not linked to the international
terror network, his lawyer has said.

Khan, 56, accused of having links with HuJI chief Ilyas
Kashmiri, entered a plea of not guilty in a court here
yesterday to two counts of providing material support and
resources to al Qaeda.

Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit with his hands
shackled, Khan appeared before Judge James Zagel for his
arraignment. After taking an oath, stating his name and age,
Khan said he was pleading not guilty to the charges.

Later speaking to reporters, Khan`s lawyer Thomas Durkin
said he is putting together a proposal to prosecutors and
judge and working on a collateral to get him released on bond.

"I think the government has a pretty heavy burden here.
Whether or not they can link anything to Al-Qaeda remains to
be seen. All you read about today is that everybody is a
member of Al-Qaeda, except when it comes down to taking
responsibility for something, nobody takes responsibility,"
Durkin said.

Disputing the claim that his client was trying to aid
al-Qaeda, Durkin said: "My client is from Kashmir and he has
his own political beliefs about Kashmiri independence. That
hasn`t become a crime yet in this country," he added.

However when asked to clarify which part of Kashmir Khan
hailed from, Durkin said he did not know whether Khan belonged
to Kashmir, India or Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

According to the US Attorney`s office statement released
after his arrest last month, Khan was a native of Pakistan who
became a naturalised US citizen in 1988.

Terming the case as "unusual", Durkin said he would
challenge the allegation of an attempt to send money in
support of a foreign terror group, specifically al Qaeda.

"There are a lot of organisations in Kashmir, lot of
people and lot of charities in Kashmir. There certainly is a
very strong political issue regarding Kashmiri independence
and I think that will play heavily in the case.

"I don`t think you can just quickly lump every group
that wishes Kashmir to be independent to be Al-Qaeda".

Zagel set May 5 as the date for the next hearing in
the case. Khan will remain in custody at the Metropolitan
Correctional Centre and is being held without bond.

Khan`s American wife Diane, his son Omar and a couple of
cab drivers were also present for the brief hearing and smiled
and waived out to Khan as he entered the courtroom.

Khan was arrested last month and has been indicted on two
counts of providing material support and funds to Al-Qaeda.