ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
In this country, we're following two terrorism trials, both with links to Pakistan. One involves a Chicago businessman, he stands accused of helping to plot the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. The other case is in Miami. Two local imams were arrested there over the weekend. They allegedly provided money and support to the Pakistani Taliban.
NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston is with us to discuss both cases. And, Dina, let's start with the trial in Chicago. Why is that an important case?
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, the defendant in this case is a Chicago businessman named Tahawwur Rana. And prosecutors say Rana allowed a friend of his to use his immigration business as a cover, and his friend used that cover to travel to India and do reconnaissance for the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Remember, those were the attacks where there were 10 armed gunmen who basically held the city hostage for three days, and more than 160 people died in those attacks.
Well, so this friend of Rana's was a Pakistani-American named David Coleman Headley. And he's really why this case is getting so much attention because he's going to testify against Rana. And apparently he's going to say that the Pakistani spy agency, the ISI, played a huge role in these 2008 attacks.
SIEGEL: Meaning that Pakistan had a direct connection to a major terrorist plot against India and a real attack.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Exactly. And, you know, Pakistan and India are quite suspicious of each other, and India has been saying for some time that Pakistan was behind the Mumbai plot. But what this case does is it sort of threatens to provide even more evidence of that. And Headley has already said publicly that he had an ISI handler, and that he spent the agency's money to help the terrorists plot the Mumbai attacks. And when he testifies, he's expected to actually name names and dates and provide details of phone calls.
And when prosecutors were putting together this case over the past year or so, you know, that was bad enough. But now, coming just weeks after Pakistan is having to explain why they didn't know Osama bin Laden was hiding out in their country for five years, you know, the timing can't be worse.
SIEGEL: Yeah, this can only make things look worse for Pakistan than they already do.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Exactly. And the fact that people are watching this case now much more than they would have, it could have huge implications.
SIEGEL: Let's talk about the case in Miami now. This is the two imams who were arrested.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Yes. Well, the FBI arrested a couple of - these are reasonably prominent imams down in South Florida. And they charged them with funneling money to the Pakistani Taliban for guns and military training. And one of the men is a 76-year-old imam at one of the oldest mosques in Miami. And his name is Hafiz Khan. His two sons were also arrested.
And apparently the FBI had been investigating them for years, and they tracked these money transfers and actually wiretapped conversations. And all in all, it's not a great deal of money. It's only about $50,000. But, allegedly, there were some pretty inflammatory conversations recorded, talking about having the Pakistani Taliban kill American soldiers, that sort of thing.
The Khans had to appear in court today to talk about who would be representing them. And they'll be back in court on Monday and will likely answer the charges then and plead guilty or not guilty.
SIEGEL: And how have those arrests gone over in the Muslim community in South Florida?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, you know, in a lot of ways, that's really the most interesting aspect of this. I think the FBI was bracing for a huge backlash, given that these two imams in the community were arrested. And because of their concern, they went about this arrest super carefully. They waited until after morning prayers on Saturday morning before they arrested the men. Apparently, the agents took off their shoes before entering the mosque - also a cultural sensitivity. And then they sat down with Muslim leaders before the arrests went public and talked to them a little bit about the case.
So - so far, anyway, the reaction from the community has been let's let these men have their day in court instead of focusing on perhaps the way they might feel that the FBI was unfairly targeting Muslims. So that's sort of a surprising development.
SIEGEL: OK. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston in New York. Thank you, Dina.
TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.