- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — A Yemeni sheik and his assistant were convicted yesterday of plotting to funnel money to al Qaeda and Hamas, handing a victory to prosecutors shaken last year when a man who was supposed to be their star witness set himself on fire outside the White House.

Sheik Mohammed Ali Hassan Al-Moayad and Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed were found guilty on all but two of the 10 charges in an indictment that accused them of vital roles in a terror-funding network that stretched from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Yemen.

In a meeting with FBI informants in a German hotel room, the men were secretly recorded promising to funnel more than $2 million to Hamas, the Palestinian extremist group that has carried out suicide bombings against Israel.

Al-Moayad also was heard boasting that Osama bin Laden, leader of the terror group al Qaeda, once had called him “my sheik.”

Al-Moayad, 56, could get 60 years in prison, and Zayed, 31, could get 30 years.

The defendants protested after the verdict was announced, crying out in Arabic that the trial had been unfair.

Al-Moayad shouted that jurors saw only “one-half of one-quarter” of the surveillance tapes that made up the bulk of the government’s case. He was rushed from the room by U.S. marshals.

“Your honor, I want another lawyer,” Zayed said in Arabic to U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. after the verdict was read. “I want another lawyer in order to defend my case because the jury did not fully study my case.”

The men were arrested by German police in January 2003 and extradited to the United States, where Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that the arrests “bring justice to the full network of terror.”

The case caused outrage in Yemen, where al-Moayad is a well-known cleric and high-ranking member of the Islamist opposition Islah party.

During the five-week trial, prosecutors said al-Moayad supported Hamas suicide bombings in Israel and helped funnel fighters to al Qaeda in Bosnia and Afghanistan. He was secretly recorded showing the FBI informants receipts for donations that he said he made to charities acting as front groups for Palestinian terrorists.

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