In case of Sheikh Al-MoayadAl-Anssi to testify [Archives:2005/816/Front Page]

February 14 2005

By News Services
An FBI informant who set himself on fire in front of the White House last December will be called as a witness for the defense of Yemeni Sheikh Al-Moayad, who was accused of aiding Hamas and al-Qaida.

Lawyers for Sheikh Mohammed Ali Hasan Al-Moayad and his assistant said they have subpoenaed Mohamed al-Anssi, who helped build the FBI's case by posing as the go-between for Al-Moayad and another informant playing an American Muslim who wanted help funneling millions of dollars to terrorists.

Al-Anssi appeared in headlines of major US newspaper and on TV screens in the US and throughout the world for trying to commit suicide for allegedly not receiving the promised money from the FBI, who he also said did not return him his passports.

He has never appeared at the trial, but has nevertheless been a central figure because he was the prosecution's main informer, helping F.B.I set up a sting to ensnare the Sheikh Al-Moayad.

Al-Anssi is the sole source of some of the government's most dramatic claims about Al-Moayad, including the allegation that the Sheikh said he personally handed $20 million to Osama bin Laden.

Defense lawyers said they would request the unsealing of a bank fraud case filed against Al-Anssi in Brooklyn federal court last year.

If al-Anssi does appear as a witness, that and other information he gave prosecutors could be heard by the jury. But the defense is expected to attack him as an opportunist and a liar who fed the F.B.I. false information in exchange for lucrative payments.

Al-Anssi , who has been subpoenaed by the defense, could testify next week, lawyers said.

Since the start of the trial, the defense lawyers have been working to cast him as untrustworthy, despite Judge Johnson's ruling limiting their attacks. Their effort was evident yesterday, as they cross-examined the F.B.I. agent who ran the investigation, Brian Murphy.

One of the lawyers, Mr. Jacobs, asked Mr. Murphy, a square-jawed agent and a skillful witness, how much he had paid Mr. Al-Anssi to be an informer. A ruling from the judge kept Mr. Murphy from answering.

Mr. Jacobs asked Mr. Murphy how much Mr. Al-Anssi had shaped the recorded conversations by trying to steer the Sheikh toward damaging statements.

“I told Mr. Al-Anssi to keep the conversation on task,” the agent acknowledged.

In the end, the skirmish showed that the defense could make little headway in attacking Al-Anssi as long as he was still missing from the courtroom. For instance, when Mr. Jacobs asked Mr. Murphy if he thought Al-Anssi was honest, Judge Johnson ruled that he did not have to answer.

Mr. Murphy deflected many of the defense attacks and at times used them as opportunities to bolster the case.

Mr. Jacobs asked whether, after investigating the Sheikh and Mr. Zayed for more than two years, Mr. Murphy's career might benefit if the jury convicted them.

Mr. Murphy insisted he would not personally benefit from a conviction. However, he volunteered, a conviction “would help all of us because they're terrorists.”

Later, after complaints from the defense, the judge told the jury to disregard the remark. But Mr. Murphy had had his say.

(Source: New York Times and Agencies)