Mosque Leader Accused of Smuggling People
NEW YORK (AP) _ A purported mosque director allegedly caught on tape wishing for a new terrorist attack on America was arrested Thursday for allegedly helping more than 200 immigrants enter or stay in the United States on the pretense that they were religious workers.
Prosecutors allege Muhammad Khalil’s mosque, run out of his variety store’s basement, was actually a roach-infested front that rarely saw worshippers.
Khalil, 62, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, was charged with conspiring to submit false applications on behalf of aliens, a charge prosecutors said could bring eight years in prison. A judge Thursday set bail at $300,000.
Four other men, including a son of Khalil, were arrested in the case and had bail set at between $50,000 and $100,000.
Prosecutors said Khalil charged fees of up to $8,000 to sponsor more than 200 applicants seeking work visas through the government’s Religious Worker Program.
The program allows foreigners with religious training and experience to obtain work visas and green cards if religious organizations sponsor them.
Prosecutors allege Khalil’s Brooklyn mosque, located below his store, Ditmas Greeting Cards, existed in name only.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward C. O’Callaghan said the government’s evidence includes taped conversations in which Khalil tells a government witness how to fake documents.
O’Callaghan said the tapes also contained inflammatory remarks regarding Osama bin Laden and fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.
``Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and myself are the same,″ O’Callaghan quoted Khalil as saying. ``America is in fact the terrorist, and they are bombing innocent children.″
The prosecutor said Khalil suggested U.S. Muslims arm themselves and told the government witness, ``Hopefully, another attack in the United States will come shortly.″
A U.S. Attorney’s spokesman said there was no allegation of terrorism in the case.
Khalil’s attorney, Roger Stavis, said he had not heard the tapes and did not know whether his client had made the statements the prosecutor alleged.
``He is a religious leader, and while I might not share all of the opinions he has, these are his opinions and this is the United States of America and he has a right to them,″ Stavis said.