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Florida imam convicted of aiding Pakistani Taliban

MIAMI (Reuters) - A south Florida imam was convicted Monday on charges of funneling more than $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban.

A federal court jury convicted Hafiz Khan, 77, on four counts of providing money and support to the group, which the United States considers a terrorist organization. Each count is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Khan is a U.S. citizen born in Pakistan and was the imam at the Flagler Mosque, one of Miami's oldest mosques. Prosecutors said he sent money to friends and family in Pakistan to be funneled to the Taliban between 2008 and 2010 and that some of the funds were used to buy weapons.

Jurors returned their verdict on the fifth day of deliberations following a two-month trial.

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola set sentencing for May 30.

Two of Khan's sons were also arrested in the case in May 2011. Charges against one were dropped for lack of evidence last year, and the judge acquitted the other son for the same reason after prosecutors finished presenting their case in court in January.

Evidence against the elder Khan included bank records and wiretapped phone calls in which he solicited money and expressed support for Pakistani Taliban efforts to overthrow the Pakistani government and attack Americans.

Khan said the money was intended to help support relatives, war victims and a school he had founded in his hometown in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan.

He testified that he lied about supporting the Taliban because he wanted a $1 million donation from a purported Taliban sympathizer, a man who was actually an FBI informant paid by the government.

The Pakistani Taliban was formed by Islamic militants in 2007. The U.S. State Department declared it a foreign terrorist organization three years later.

The group has been connected to a December 2009 suicide attack on a U.S. military base in Khost, Afghanistan, that killed seven people. In 2011, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for suicide attacks that killed more than 80 people in northwestern Pakistan.

(Reporting by Kevin Gray and Jane Sutton; editing by John Wallace)

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