Family slams US court ruling against Yemeni cleric [Archives:2005/824/Front Page]

March 14 2005

SANAA, March 13 (Reuters) – Relatives of a Yemeni Muslim cleric jailed in the United States said on Sunday they hoped an “unjust” court decision convicting him of conspiring to support al Qaeda and Hamas would be overturned on appeal.

Sheikh Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad, 56, arrested along with an aide in an FBI sting operation in Germany in 2003, was convicted on Thursday in New York of conspiring to provide support for the two Islamic militant groups.

Moayad's wife, Um Ibrahim, told Reuters by telephone that collecting funds for Hamas was a duty to help Palestinians. “He was doing what many Yemenis are doing,” she said.

Many Arabs see Hamas as a resistance group fighting Israeli occupation.

The jury found Moayad and his 31-year-old aide, Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed, guilty on eight counts including conspiring to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda and Hamas.

Moayad was acquitted on a separate count of actually providing such support to al Qaeda, but was found guilty of providing material support and resources to Hamas, which is regarded by the United States as a terrorist group.

“We thank God that my husband had been cleared of links to al Qaeda. But convicting him of other charges is unjust and inhuman,” Moayad's wife said.

Moayad's son, Zakariya, said U.S. authorities had no right to try his father for donating funds to Hamas. “Hamas is licensed and recognised in Yemen and there is no written law that allows the Americans to try my father,” he said.

Both said they hoped the cleric would be cleared in an

appeal scheduled to be heard in May.

The ruling was a victory for prosecutors after controversy over a key informant, Mohamed Alanssi, who set himself on fire outside the White House in November in an apparent suicide bid after saying he had been mistreated by the FBI.

Lawyers for the two men had argued they were victims of entrapment in an “unfair and coercive” situation manipulated by the U.S. government after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.