In a rare legal move, attorneys for two South Florida Muslim clerics accused of aiding terrorists will be allowed to travel to Pakistan during a Miami trial to question witnesses considered crucial to their defense.
A federal judge has granted permission to attorneys for two former imams of local mosques, father and son Hafiz Khan and Izhar Khan, to travel to Islamabad in February to depose five witnesses during a live video teleconference call with prosecutors remaining in Miami.
Federal prosecutors had opposed the depositions under any circumstances, noting the difficulty of cross-examining the Pakistani witnesses, three of whom were indicted along with the Khans on charges of conspiring to support the Taliban. But the judge disagreed, citing basic fairness.
“All things being equal, the court would prefer that both government and defense attorneys be able to travel to the deposition room in Islamabad,” U.S. District Judge Robert Scola wrote in his 10-page ruling issued Friday.
“But that cannot occur. Government attorneys cannot safely travel to Islamabad to participate in the depositions,” he wrote. “Using [video-teleconferencing] works around this safety problem to preserve evidence critical to defendants combating the charges they face, while still allowing prosecutors to cross-examine [the witnesses].” Scola established logistical requirements for the Feb. 4 depositions, which will take place after the Khans’ trial gets underway in January.
Among them: Two video cameras for the witnesses and deposition room in an Islamabad hotel, and one for the Miami federal courtroom. A Pakistani official must be present in Islamabad to verify the identity of the witnesses. Interpreters must be in Islamabad to translate, and a court reporter must be in Miami to transcribe the depositions live.
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
Field trip to Pakistan
Judge Scola granted the defense motion to take depos in Pakistan, according to Jay Weaver: