MIAMI -- For two months, federal prosecutors portrayed Miami imam Hafiz Khan in the worst possible light: terrorist sympathizer, Taliban supporter and pathological liar.
"His whole defense is a lie," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Shipley told 12 jurors Tuesday during closing arguments.
The 77-year-old Khan, with his hunched shoulders and flowing white beard, testified that he sent about $50,000 to Pakistan to help a religious school, the poor and his extended family overseas -- not to arm Taliban militants bent on killing Americans and Pakistanis.
"This is America, folks," his attorney, Khurrum Wahid, said during closings. "You don't have to accept what the government tells you."
On Tuesday, jurors began deliberating the fate of Khan, the former Muslim cleric at the Flagler Mosque in Miami. Khan, who was arrested along other family members in May 2011, has stood trial on four counts of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and to a foreign terrorist organization, as well as providing actual support in both conspiracies.
Each count -- built upon evidence of FBI-recorded phone conversations, a wired informant and bank transactions between 2008 and 2010 -- carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
The prosecution's case has had its share of setbacks. U.S. District Judge Robert Scola found that the evidence against Khan appeared "overwhelming" when he rejected the defendant's bid for an acquittal at the end of trial. But the judge had also ruled midway through the trial that the government's case against Khan's son, Izhar Khan, a Broward, Fla., imam, lacked evidence and threw it out.
Moreover, last summer prosecutors dropped the charges against another of Khan's sons, Irfan, a Miami cab driver, without explanation.
Both brothers, along with another sibling, Ikram Khan, also a cab driver, attended the closing arguments Tuesday with other supporters from the elderly imam's mosque.
The case ultimately may come down to whether jurors believed Hafiz Khan, who was often evasive, unresponsive and rambling on the witness stand during four days of testimony last week.