| Interview with Mother of "Virginia Jihad" Detainee
Transcript of Interview with Mrs. Elisabeth Khan
Mother of Masoud Khan
Friday March 12, 2004
The Muslim Link
A childhood photo of Masoud
1. Can you tell us a bit about Masoud's personality, his youth, etc:
Masoud is a very loving, responsible and family-orientated son. He has always lived with me and unselfishly given support to all family needs. He is reserved, quiet, and studious, but as a child was very fun-loving.
Masoud grew up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he first attended an Arab school and then proceeded to attend American Elementary and Junior High Schools. His favorite sports included soccer, basketball, swimming and hiking. He had a few select friends and he kept his friendships; he was very faithful to his friends, very loyal. He returned to the United States at the age of 17 and attended Gaithersburg High School. The experience was such a culture shock for him that he dropped out in the last year (12th grade); however, he subsequently took the GED and received his high school diploma.
Masoud always had a yearning to learn more about his religion and to memorize Quran and he regretted the fact that while he was in Saudi Arabia he had not been able to do that. Following a vacation trip to visit his father who was still in Karachi, he entered college [computer science] and then told me that he was dissatisfied. He said that Americans don't know anything about Islam and he wanted to find a way to bring da'wah to them. He said he wanted to learn Arabic and to learn more about his religion. So, he began taking courses at the American Open University and the Institute of Arabic (and Islamic) Sciences, and at the same time he proceeded to memorize the Qur'an by himself. That took him almost two years. In 1996 he passed the examination at the Institute and received the scholarship to go to Riyadh University which he attended for three and half years and graduated. When he returned home in January of 2000, he expressed the desire to marry.
This is one of the problems I have with this trial because the government is trying to say that in January 2000 he was joining a group of people talking about paintball and making plans for jihad training. In fact, he came back in mid-January was very proud of his Certificate and immediately asked me to begin looking for a wife for him. He only went to one paintball game, never went again; never went with these groups of other people, and never mentioned anything about frustration with America or wars overseas. In March we made plans and found a prospective bride for him and in May he and I traveled to Morocco and he was married in Morocco. So predominantly his time was spent preparing for his marriage and planning to finish his education here.
2. How did the FBI and law enforcement deal with Masoud in this case? What about the media?
The media has been grossly unfair. Their articles have all been one-sided and biased. Their intent is to create an effect and stir the emotions of the American people, regardless of the real truth. I wanted very badly to tell my story to the press, but Masoud's attorneys always warned that the truth would not be printed and my words would be twisted. I really feel that the media is politically motivated. I don't find any justice in the present system and freedom of the press does not exist anymore.
I wish Masoud had done something wrong so I could justify [what has] happened to him. Masoud was singled out as a scapegoat and I have yet to know the real reason. I do not understand the purpose of the medias [Government] emphasis on calling my son a Pakistani, as though being so is synonymous with suspicion of terrorism. Masoud was born in Washington, D.C. His father was born in the North West Frontier Province and was very proud of his heritage. He was also proud to become a U.S. citizen in the early 1960's. I am a 4th generation American/Washingtonian whose ancestors came from Scotland, Italy and France. Masoud lived in Karachi at the age of 4 and thereafter spent the rest of his life in Jeddah and the U.S. Americans all originate from other countries; that is how this country has been formed, and until now, it was considered a blessing to emigrate and settle here.
The FBI has been a very big disappointment to me. I used to work with the US Embassy in Jeddah (State Department) and the agents I knew appeared to be very professional and nice. But the 32 agents who invaded my house at 6:00 am at gunpoint were purely trained military men except for two of the agents in charge of the activity. One of the agents was an Indian girl, another agent was some other nationality, they didn't treat us nicely at all, they were very rough. It was a chilling experience for me and I still haven't gotten over what it was like having them pound on our door, racing up the stairs shouting; dragging my daughter-in-law out of bed, waking up the baby, it was terrible, terrible. I kept asking what was wrong and what they wanted? But they acted like I was criminal and that I would shoot them if I could get the chance. I will never trust the FBI again that is for sure. I am really disappointed in my country frankly.
3. Masoud's Friends especially those who ended up part of the case:
Masoud had a few select friends, and a limited acquaintance with several of the defendants. Yong Kwan, however, had been a roommate of my younger son, Omer, at Virginia Tech for a semester in 1996 I believe and he visited our home frequently on weekends. I would't say he was Masoud's friend at all. Attique was also just an acquaintance and a classmate at Virginia Tech. Seif Chapman and Masoud have known each other for a number of years and they enjoyed Saturday outings for jogging, hiking and hunting.
I never heard Yong's testimony in Court because I was to be a witness. I was shocked to hear that Yong had named two of my sons in his testimony, certainly I don't see why he needed to lie to such an extent or why Masoud in particular was portrayed as being so important to the case.
When Yong left Virginia Tech, he asked Omer if he could live with us for a while because he had no job or home. I didnt know at the time that he was estranged from his family, and so, since he was a friend of Omer's, I agreed to help him. We gave him a bedroom in the lower level of the house which also had a separate entrance. Yong spent one full summer with us and thereafter was a frequent guest on week-ends until Omer left for overseas. Upon Masoud's return from Saudi Arabia in 2000, he did not encourage Yong to stay so frequently. So it was really a big shock for me to know that he was the main person accusing Masoud because we gave him nothing but hospitality, lessons on Islam and Arabic and companionship. He was treated like a family member and had my trust. It is a big shock when a fellow Muslim betrays you and only Allah knows what led him to such a state.
4. How did you feel about Masoud's defense and the defense the lawyers put together? The fact that he pled the 5th?
First of all, I was told that Masoud's lawyer had a reputation as an excellent trial attorney. He is listed as one of the top 75 criminal defense lawyers in the Washington Metropolitan area and had proven to be excellent in cross-examination of witnesses on the stand. I have been told that there was a confrontation between Mr. Grimm and the Judge on the first day of trial. There was a feeling that the Judge did not seem to react to him favorably. He indicated his belief in Masoud's innocence and seemed ready to present a decent argument for Masoud's defense. As the trial progressed, and following my testimony, I saw that Mr. Grimm had placed his co-attorney in the forefront and I was not happy about it.
As far as Masoud taking the fifth, this was unexpected. After observing the testimony of Seif and Abdur Raheem, it was obvious that the government had the upper hand in manipulating their testimony to the point that the truth was not being accepted. Masoud's attorney expressed doubt on putting him on the stand, saying he had no experience with a trial; had never been in court before in his life and also felt that the judge might not favor Masoud because of his physical appearance and personality. For that reason they also had decided not to have a jury trial because -- again -- [the jury would be] looking at a replica of Bin Ladin (laughs). It's the appearance, and Masoud would have gotten emotional and would have gotten upset. [The government] was determined to make Masoud an example. I dont know why he was singled out and I still dont know why but Ashcroft picked him and it could have been partially the look it could very well have been. I had expected Masoud to testify on his own behalf, and present witnesses to vouch for him. I had expected the truth to be told and the Community to hear what he had to say. I was doubly surprised when Mr. Grimm did not do the closing argument and present all of the facts on Masoud's behalf. The truth has not been heard.
TML: Did the lawyers tell Masoud to plead guilty?
No they did not tell him to plead guilty. His first lawyer, who was a former federal prosecutor, did advise him to plead guilty so as to be released in a few years. But Masoud refused to plead guilty and this lawyer dropped out of the case. Mr. Grimm also asked the government what their terms would be for cooperation, and the terms were that he would name new people (they would give him pictures of different people they have in custody) and indicate whether he had seen them when he went to the Lashkar community. The government seems to feel that Masoud has knowledge which Masoud emphatically denies having. They told him that if he would cooperate they would leave the rest of his family alone. On several occasions they indicated directly to me that they didnt really want to put such a young man in prison who really had not done anything, but that in order to catch the real terrorists, they would put pressure anywhere necessary. Yes, they offered (reduction in time); they said they would go down to the single digits. However, Masoud would still be labeled with a guilty plea and so Mr. Grimm and Masoud refused to cooperate indicating that they would fight this case and go to trial.
Masoud does not want to spend the rest of his life in prison, but there is no way he will speak against another Muslim who might be innocent, nor will he bear false witness. Masoud said he has to say the truth and accept the consequences and there is no way he can cooperate with the government. [Masoud said] the people at the Lashkar community [overseas] were good Muslims and they were good people; innocent people and they are setting up a community for the Muslims.
And of course he asked for fatwas. He was told that he could speak against those who have accused him in the court but he cannot speak about anyone new. He didn't get the opportunity to speak against them because he did not get the chance to [take the witness stand]. I didn't know this till the last moment. I said [to his lawyers] why not? The whole case is based upon the witness and suddenly there he sat pleading the 5th which was a big surprise for me and he couldn't have any witnesses testify on his behalf. That is not what I expected from them. I expected them to get him on the stand to tell his side and they didn't do it.
Message to Muslims:
I want the Muslim Community as a whole to know that Masoud didn't do anything wrong. The Muslim Community needs to be strong and outspoken. They cannot exist in fear, nor can they pretend they don't believe in Jihad as a pillar of Islam. The government will continue to oppress us all; they will attempt to close Islamic schools and send their so-called extremist professors home. My message is be strong and unite and fight this government somehow because without a unified Muslim community everyone is at their mercy. There is no way we can fight it in small groups. We have to show unity. We also need Muslim lawyers and Muslims professionals who have the courage to stand up to oppression.
Yong and others lied to save themselves and Yong [might] not get any jail time at all. But Allah could punish them forever unless they sincerely repent. I told Masoud not to lie. I told him that he is a martyr and he are going to get his reward Insha'Allah even though it is the worst thing for a mother to have to endure. He has to be brave and he has to trust in Allah.
TML: Any comments on the appeal effort?
No idea on the appeal. We have spent all of our money. Now I think MAC and CAIR are considering such a possibility. I don't know the regulation for appeals in the eastern district in Alexandria. It's going to take a great sacrifice on the part of the community itself to be able to go and pay for an appeal. Certainly one should have the right to appeal -- if even to the Supreme Court, but costs are high. Certainly the case in Germany reached their Supreme Court and the defendant was freed. It used to be that an unjustly accused person would be able to find justice for himself without having to search for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those days appear to have disappeared. I will fight as best I can to see my son freed.
TML: Any other words for the community?
Without the help of the Muslim Community and especially MAC who has been coordinating the support, we could not have proceeded to trial. My family was amazed at the outpouring of support and generosity for us and the considerable sacrifices made for so many months. I think initially people were confused about the issues and understandably wary, but once they became informed, they joined in to help in tremendous ways and, at court, showed their support, both sisters and brothers, by filling two courtrooms. I can only express my gratitude to everyone. I ask them to remain strong and supportive to us in the coming trying times. I ask for their continued prayers in this regard.
Masoud's only crime was to dutifully travel to Pakistan at my direction to deliver original estate documents in Court and then while there, to investigate the Lashkar Community in the hope of using his share of the estate to eventually purchase land and live abroad in a peaceful Muslim Community with his family. He never intended any harm to anyone.
TML: Masoud may be transferred to prisons far away. Will you relocate to be close to him?
I really don't know what is in store for us. I used to do dawah within federal prisons and my experience is that that they move people about once every year or 1.5 years. I used to send Qurans to the prisoners and when the prisoners receive too much religious material then suddenly you find that they are not there anymore and they will move them somewhere else. I have my job here [in D.C.] and I have my elderly mother that I am taking care of and now I have Masoud's wife and child. It's not like I can uproot myself and follow him around the country. We will have to try to visit him periodically. I haven't gotten to the point of figuring out all of that. I am still hoping on the appeal and hoping there is still a chance --certainly if this case has not been in the district of VA then it would not have gone to court in the first place.
SOURCE: The Muslim Link