OCTOBER 03, 2008
The terrorism convictions of a Yemeni cleric and an aid who provided Al Qaeda and Hamas with funds and weapons has been overturned by a federal appeals court in New York.
The cleric (Mohammed Ali Al-Moayad), who was Osama bin Laden’s spiritual adviser, had been sentenced to 75 years in prison for funneling millions of dollars to the radical Islamic groups behind the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. His aid was sentenced to more than four decades in prison.
After a five-week trial in 2005, a federal jury in Brooklyn convicted Al-Moayad of conspiring to provide material support and resources to foreign terrorist organizations and his aid (Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed) of terrorism conspiracy. Federal prosecutors referred to Al-Moayad as a “master terrorist financier.”
The men had been arrested in a German sting operation and extradited to the U.S.
They were tried in Brooklyn because they had been charged with raising money for Islamic terrorists at a mosque in that jurisdiction. Witnesses testified that Moayad boasted about giving money, weapons and recruits to Bin Laden and that he personally delivered $20 million to the Al Qaeda leader and $3.5 million to Hamas before September 11, 2001.
In overturning the convictions, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the men were deprived of a fair trial because the government erroneously presented inadmissible evidence that harmed the defendants. In its 68-page decision, the court said it cannot conclude that the jury may not have been significantly affected by the erroneous admission because the evidence against them is “not overwhelming.”
Coincidentally, a few weeks ago a national committee formed to defend the sheikh and his aid firmly demanded that the U.S. administration free them as fast as possible. The group, which publicized its demand in an Arabic newspaper, emphasized the men’s mistreatment during the holy month of Ramadan.
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