US indicts Pak-origin cabbie for attempting to aid Qaeda
Chicago: A Pakistani-origin cab driver, with suspected links to HuJI chief Ilyas Kashmiri, was on Thursday indicted on charges of providing material support and funds to terror group al Qaeda.
A federal grand jury returned the indictment against Raja Lahrasib Khan, who is being held in federal lock-up Metropolitan Correctional Centre without bond.
The indictment charges the same two counts of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organisation that were charged in the complaint filed against Khan after his arrest by FBI last week.
Khan was scheduled to appear in a Chicago court on April 07 for a preliminary hearing, when the government would have shown some of its evidence against him.
However, due to the indictment that hearing now stands cancelled. No date for an arraignment has been set yet.
"In the next couple of days, an arraignment will be scheduled before the assigned judge in US District Court in Chicago, and the indictment effectively cancels the preliminary hearing that was scheduled for April 07 before Magistrate Judge Soat Brown," US Attorney`s office spokesman Randall Samborn said.
According to the two-page indictment, "about November 23, 2009 at Chicago, Khan did knowingly attempt to provide material support and resources, namely property (funds) and currency, to a foreign terrorist organisation, namely al Qaeda, which was designated by the US Secretary of State as a foreign terrorist organisation... knowing that al Qaeda had engaged and was engaging in terrorist activity".
Khan`s attorney, who was hoping to challenge the government`s evidence during the April 07 hearing, said he was "disappointed" that Khan was indicted before being given a chance to contest the evidence.
"I am really disappointed that the government made a tactical decision to avoid the preliminary hearing so as to deny us the opportunity to contest the evidence. Instead they chose to go via a secret grand jury.”
"We are very disappointed and continue to look forward to the day when we can contest this evidence in an open and public forum," Khan`s attorney Thomas Durkin said.
Khan, who claims to have known al Qaeda operative Ilyas Kashmiri for 15 years, was arrested from downtown Chicago on March 26 as he was waiting in his cab for customers.
His arrest comes five months after Chicago residents David Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana were arrested by the FBI on terror charges. Headley has since pleaded guilty to his role in the Mumbai 26/11 attacks.
Kashmiri has also been indicted along with Headley and Rana on terror charges. At a court hearing on March 30, Judge Brown had granted government`s motion to keep Khan in detention pending trial.
Durkin had then said he would try to put together a plan under which release on bond could be possible, calling the government`s complaint against Khan as "an incredibly one-sided document".
According to a 35-page affidavit submitted in court at the time of his arrest, Khan told an undercover law enforcement agent that he sent money to Kashmiri, whom he referred to as `Lala`, several times in the past.
The money was allegedly used by Kashmiri, leader of extremist group Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami in Pakistan with links to al Qaeda, to purchase weapons.
Khan had sent a money transfer of approximately USD 950 in November last year from a currency exchange here to `Individual A` in Pakistan.
He had also discussed attacking a stadium in the US this summer and allegedly told the undercover agent that he had met Kashmiri most recently in 2008 in Miran Shah in northwest Pakistan.
Khan was then told by Kashmiri that al Qaeda leader Osama bin laden was "healthy" and giving orders to Kashmiri.
Khan came to the US in 1975 and became a naturalised citizen in 1998. He has three children from his previous marriage and has been married to an American since 1994.
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