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Man questioned in terror probe trying to rebuild life

Posted by Metro Desk  October 14, 2010 05:53 PM

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Five months after Pir Khan and his nephew were arrested on immigration charges during dramatic raids by agents investigating the attempted bombing in Times Square, he has purchased a new taxi with the help of friends and is back driving fares around Boston.

Khan, 43, speaking at length today for the first time, said he did nothing wrong and still does not know why he was questioned as part of the terrorist investigation or why his nephew, Aftab Ali Khan, 27, remains jailed in New York City.

"I knew I didn't do anything,'' said Khan, who is living in his apartment on Waverley Avenue in Watertown that was raided May 13. "I'm just a normal person. I like to work hard and make a living.''

Khan, who appeared briefly today in US Immigration Court in Boston, is fighting deportation and was ordered to return to court on Dec. 16 for a hearing on his case. He entered the country illegally in 1991, but later was given permission to work while seeking asylum. He was denied asylum, but married an American woman, Rebecca May Barry, 24, two years ago and she is petitioning for him to be granted permanent residency.

The Khans and a third New England man arrested during the raids, Mohammad Shafiq ur Rahman, a 33-year-old computer programmer from South Portland, Maine, have not been charged with any crimes. But, all three face civil immigration charges.

Pir Khan said he was shocked when a team of federal agents and police surrounded him at gunpoint in May, took him into custody and began asking him questions about Faisal Shahzad, the Bridgeport, Conn., man who was sentenced to life in prison last week after pleading guilty to trying to ignite a car bomb in busy Times Square on May 1.

"I never heard that name," said Khan, adding that he did not know Shahzad and had no involvement with him. "I didn't have a clue about any of this. They were asking me about my financial situation and banking.''

After the May raids, US Attorney General Eric Holder said the detained men were suspected of funneling money to Shahzad, but he said it was unclear if they knew the money would be used for terrorism. Authorities alleged that Aftab Khan had Shahzad's cellphone number stored on his cellphone.

Today, Pir Khan said he routinely sent money to Pakistan for his mother and 19-year-old son, who is attending college, but always used Western Union or banks. He said he never used hawala, an informal money transfer network that authorities say was used by the Pakistani Taliban to funnel money to Shahzad.

Pir Khan also said he did not know why his nephew, who moved in with him a year ago, allegedly had Shahzad's cellphone number. He said investigators asked questions about whether Aftab Khan had used an informal money transfer system to send money to his relatives in Pakistan.

Framingham immigration attorney Saher J. Macarius, who represents Pir and Aftab Khan, said Aftab Khan did not know Shahzad, but had used an informal money network to send money to his family in Pakistan.

"How it got into the hands of who is a question,'' said Macarius, adding that Aftab Khan had nothing to do with the attempted Times Square attack and should be released.

The US attorney's office in Manhattan, which is leading the investigation into the attempted bombing, and the Justice Department declined to comment today on Pir or Aftab Khan.

Pir Khan's wife said the government has an obligation to publicly exonerate her husband since they linked him to the terrorism investigation at the time of his arrest, even though he has never been charged with a crime.

"I want people to know he had nothing to do with it,'' Barry said. "It kind of aggravates me that they won't say that. And I'm still fighting to get him to stay.''

Originally published on the blog MetroDesk.

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