ORLANDO, Fla., Dec 5, Reuters - A Pakistani immigrant who says he was held for more than 10 months in solitary confinement after being falsely arrested on terrorism charges has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Miami, saying he was a victim of “overzealousness” in the U.S. war on terrorism.
Irfan Khan, a 40-year-old Muslim, emigrated to the United States from Pakistan in 1994 and is a naturalized U.S. citizen.
He is the son of a 78-year-old south Florida imam who was sentenced to 25 years in prison by a judge in August for funneling more than $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban.
Hafiz Kahn was convicted in March on four counts of providing money and support to the group, which the United States considers a terrorist organization. He had faced a maximum of 60 years in prison, and prosecutors sought a 15-year sentence.
The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court, says Irfan Khan was arrested in California in May 2011 on charges that included providing material support for terrorism and the Pakistani Taliban.
Subsequently transferred to a prison in Florida, he was also accused of supporting a conspiracy to maim, kidnap or murder persons overseas, according to the lawsuit.
All charges against Khan were dropped in June 2012, but only after he had been held for 319 days in solitary confinement, according to the lawsuit.
“The conduct the government subjected Irfan to, as a result of his religion, national origin, and its overzealousness in its war on terror was and still is, by all standards, horrendous,” the complaint says.
“I couldn’t even imagine myself in this situation,” Khan told Reuters on Thursday evening. “I was shocked at the time. I‘m still shocked. I don’t know why it happened, how it happened, and that’s why we are doing this. To get some answers.”
He did not elaborate, but the lawsuit accuses the government of false arrest, imprisonment and malicious prosecution.
A spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit after Reuters learned of it late on Thursday.
The government accused Khan of wiring money in 2008 to a commander of the Pakistani Taliban named Akbar Hussain, but Khan maintains that he actually was sending money to his wife, who was visiting Pakistan, through her uncle who is also named Akbar Hussain but who is a retired college professor.
The lawsuit also claims that a neutral translator would have disagreed with the government’s interpretation of two telephone conversations cited by prosecutors that Khan had with his father in the father’s native language of Urdu and Pashto.
The lawsuit states that Khan could be heard on the phone calls criticizing the Pakistani government but not advocating violence, as was claimed by government prosecutors.
Following his arrest, Khan said he lost his job and his car. He also said his wife had to move with their two children out of concerns for their safety.
Since his release, Khan, who is looking for a job in Miami, said one bank refused to allow him a checking account, and his former employer refused to talk to him.
Michael Hanna, a discrimination attorney with the Morgan & Morgan law firm in Orlando, said Kahn is seeking justice and unspecified damages.
Case 1:13-cv-24366-CMA, Irfan Khan v United States of America, was filed in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida.
Additional reporting and editing by Tom Brown; Editing by Ken Wills