TUCSON (AP) — Jury selection is set to begin in the trial of a man accused of killing an Arizona imam over a Quran interpretation more than two decades ago.
The Arizona Daily Star reports that selection is scheduled today in the trial of Glen Francis, 52. He is accused of slashing and stabbing Rashad Khalifa, 54, more than 30 times in January 1990 at the Masjid of Tucson.
Francis wasn’t arrested in the case until April 2009 when he was located in Canada living under an assumed name. A Canadian court didn’t clear him for extradition until 2010.
Still, Khalifa’s killing generated headlines around the world.
It’s believed that Khalifa, a native Egyptian and a one-time science adviser to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi, was wanted dead because of his controversial interpretation of the Quran.
Khalifa drew fire from some Muslims since he preached people must worship God and not Muhammad, Jesus Christ or saints. He also claimed to be a messenger of God.
Before his death, Khalifa was advised by Colorado authorities that members of the Fuqra group, mostly black American Muslims, were plotting his death.
Colorado Springs police searched a storage locker in a burglary investigation in 1989. They found 40 pounds of explosives, notes that detailed when worshippers arrived and left Khalifa’s mosque, and when police patrolled the area. Police seized photos of the mosque and Khalifa’s followers. They found notes stating the conspirators hoped to stab Khalifa but also considered strangulation, poison and shooting Khalifa with a silenced .22-caliber gun.
Authorities said the notes indicated any worshippers entering the mosque would be herded into a room and killed.
Detectives also believed a “personal assistant” to Osama bin Laden was involved in the plot to kill Khalifa. Wadih El-Hage, 41, who lived in Tucson in the 1980s, was never charged in the case. However, he is now serving a life sentence for organizing the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that left more than 200 dead.
Two Fuqra members were convicted in Colorado on conspiracy and other charges related to the Khalifa slaying in the early 1990s, but it wasn’t until 2009 that Francis found himself behind bars.
Francis was born in Trinidad and moved to Canada in 1976, according to court documents. He was living under a false name and driving a cab in Dallas before arriving in Tucson in 1989.
Once in Tucson, Francis obtained an Arizona identification card in the name of Benjamin Phillips. In early January 1990, he went to the mosque, saying he wanted to know about Islam.
He was last seen with Khalifa the day before the slaying, court documents indicate.