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Yemeni Sheikh Pleads Guilty to Aiding Hamas in New York Court

Posted: August 12, 2009

A prominent member of the Islamic opposition party in Yemen admitted in a New York court to providing funds to Hamas. On August 7, 2009, Sheikh Mohammed Ali Hasan al-Moayad, 60, and his associate, Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed, 35, pleaded guilty in a Brooklyn federal court to conspiring to provide material support to the Palestinian terrorist group.


In exchange for the guilty plea, the government agreed to dismiss the remaining charges against al-Moayad and Zayed, which included conspiracy to provide material support to Al Qaeda. The men's sentences were also changed from 75 and 45 years in prison, respectively, to time already served, or 80 months in prison. Five days after pleading guilty, the men were deported back to Yemen.


Al-Moayad and Zayed were convicted of conspiring to aide Hamas and Al Qaeda in March 2005, capping a three-year case that began as a sting operation in Frankfurt, Germany. Four days of meetings with al-Moayad were videotaped by FBI informants posing as wealthy American Muslims interested in giving $2 million to Hamas.


According to the surveillance tapes, al-Moayad agreed to funnel money to Al Qaeda and Hamas in exchange for funds for bakeries and charities based in Yemen. Al-Moayad was also recorded discussing his prior relationship to Osama bin Laden. Al-Moayad stated that he financially supported bin Laden and instructed him in Islamic law.


Al-Moayad and Zayed were arrested in Germany shortly after meeting the undercover FBI informants in January 2003. They were extradited to the U.S. the following November. One of the FBI informants in the sting operation, identified in court documents as Mohamed Alanssi, set himself on fire in front of the White House in November 2004. Following the incident, prosecutors dropped Alanssi from their witness list and relied on video tapes and recordings during the trial.


A New York appeals court overturned the convictions against al-Moayad and Zayed in October 2008. According to the appeals court, "the district court committed evidentiary errors that were sufficiently prejudicial as to deprive the defendants of a fair trial." The testimony and evidence that allegedly prejudiced the jury included descriptions of suicide bombings in Tel Aviv and images of Osama bin Laden.

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