MIAMI — A federal judge sternly blamed the U.S. government Tuesday for lengthy delays in a lawsuit filed by a Pakistani-American man accusing the U.S. of malicious prosecution in a terror financing case.
U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga agreed with Irfan Khan's lawyer that the Justice Department's tactics have caused months of unnecessary delays. Altonaga said much FBI evidence released about its investigation into Khan's alleged ties to the Pakistani Taliban is heavily redacted and useless.
"It's virtually like providing nothing," Altonaga said at a hearing. "It's sort of like shooting in the dark."
Government attorneys say they have struggled with balancing national security and classified FBI material in deciding what material to turn over, much of it based on some 40,000 intercepted telephone calls. The process has taken more than a year since Khan's attorney, Michael Hanna, first began requesting the documents.
"When dealing with classified information, it's not so simple," Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos Raurell said.
Khan says in his lawsuit that the Justice Department knew he was innocent when he was prosecuted on charges of supporting the Pakistani Taliban, along with his father and other family members. Prosecutors deny that, but the criminal case against him was dropped without explanation before a 2013 trial.
Khan's father, Muslim cleric Hafiz Khan, is serving a 25-year sentence after he was convicted in 2013 of funneling thousands of dollars to the Pakistani Taliban. A federal judge ordered the acquittal of another son, Izhar Khan, because of lack of evidence during the trial. Khan's sister, Amina, was also charged but has remained in Pakistan.
Yet another federal judge is currently going through hundreds of sensitive FBI investigative documents to determine which ones Khan should be able to obtain for his lawsuit. But the Justice Department could object to release of some or all of those as well, which would mean more legal battles and delay.
Altonaga decided Tuesday to suspend various deadlines until the classified material is sorted out, likely scrapping the current October trial date as well.
"This is a very old case, gentlemen. I fault the government," she said. "You let me know when you're good and ready."
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