Yemeni Sheik Convicted of Plotting to Fund Terror GroupsMarch 10, 2005
By WILLIAM GLABERSON
Yemeni cleric who once said Osama bin Laden called him his sheik was convicted of terrorism-financing charges today in a federal court in New York City.
The victory for the Justice Department came in one of the government's most visible terrorism-financing prosecutions, which had for a time appeared uncertain after the F.B.I.'s star informer drew attention by setting himself on fire outside the White House in November.
The sheik, Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad, a prominent Yemeni who once held a government post in his homeland, was convicted after a five-week trial that federal prosecutors portrayed today as providing "an inside view of one campaign" in the government's war on terror.
He was convicted of conspiracy to provide material support to Al Qaeda and Hamas, the Palestinian militant organization, and other charges. His assistant, Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed, was also convicted of conspiracy and other charges.
Both men, who were extradited to this country after they were arrested in Germany in January 2003, face prison terms that could be longer than 30 years. They have received wide support in Yemen.
A jury in Brooklyn federal court returned the verdict today after five days of deliberations in a trial that centered on videotapes that were secretly recorded during a sting operation in Frankfurt in January 2003. The defense had claimed that the sting was nothing more than a trap that snared a vulnerable Yemeni and his aide who were trying to collect money for innocent charities, like a bakery that fed the poor.
But in extensive interviews in a courtroom after the verdict, five of the jurors said they had not been persuaded by the defense arguments and had been offended by defense lawyers' claims that prosecutors were trying to incite their prejudices.
The jurors, three women and two men, said the videotapes recorded in Frankfurt, had been decisive. "We saw the videotapes. There was so much there," said one juror, who added that the jurors had kept transcripts of prosecution translations before them in the jury room.
A woman from the 12-person panel added that the jurors did not believe the defense contention that two government informers who appeared on the tapes had directed the conversation and made it appear that with the sheik and Mr. Zayed were more interested in terrorism than they were.
"They were free to get up and walk out and say they were not interested in doing this," the woman juror said.