More efforts needed to bring Sheikh Moayad and Zayed home, say Yemeni lawyers [Archives:2008/1197/Local News]

October 9 2008

Kawkab Al-Thaibani
For the Yemen Times

SANA'A, 8 Oct. ) Yemeni and American lawyers have stressed the need for political and diplomatic efforts for the release of Sheikh Mohammed Al-Moayad and Mohammed Zayed, after the verdict of a U.S. court against them was annulled by the United States Court of Appeals.

Yemeni Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and high-profile figures attended a seminar last Monday to demand the immediate release of Sheikh Al-Moayad and Zayed, organized by the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms, known as HOOD.

These demands came along with the latest verdict to overturn the convictions against Al-Moayad and Zayed issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the second circuit by the Circuit Judge Barrington D. Parker.

Al-Moayad and Zayed were convicted on 11 March 2005 of conspiring to provide material support to Al-Qaeda, and attempting to provide material support to Hamas. Al-Moayad was sentenced to 75 years and Zayed to 45 years in Florence, Colorado state facility.

“The district court committed evidentiary errors that were sufficiently prejudicial as to deprive the defendants of a fair trial. We therefore vacate the convictions and remand for further proceedings,” says the verdict issued on 2 October.

Al-Moayad, who is known to some Yemenis as “father of the poor”, ran a mosque and a charitable center to provide food rations to the poor. It is estimated that his bakery supports 8,000 people, according to Al-Sahwa newspaper. However, these charitable acts were believed by the American government to be a disguise for a terrorist movement.

Although the verdicts against them were annulled by the U.S. court of appeals, Sheikh Al-Moayad and Zayed have not yet been acquitted or released.

“I think the sheik has a reasonable chance of being found not-guilty at a re-trial but, of course, he could be convicted as no one can predict what a jury will do,” said Bob Boyle, the American lawyer appointed by the court to represent Al-Moayad. “It is more important, therefore, to urge the prosecution [the U.S. government] to dismiss the charges and let the sheik and Zayed come home.”

The HOOD seminar aimed at mobilizing efforts to lobby for the acquittal and release Sheikh Al-Moayad and Zayed.

“Even if Al-Moayad and Zaid do not return to Yemen, the chance of acquittal is high,” said Khaled Al-Anisi, the Executive Director of HOOD. Al-Anisi said that he was told by Jonathan Marks, Zayed's former lawyer in the U.S., that if the case was retried, Al-Moayad and Zayed's lawyers would win.

“The current environment in the U.S. has helped al-Moayad's and Zayed's case in a lot of ways,” said Mohammed Naji Allawo, the Yemeni lawyer assigned by the Yemeni president and families of the detainees. “The bonus of democracies is that they correct their faults,” said Allawo, adding that public pressure on the U.S. government and President George Bush's last term had benefited Al-Moayad and Zayed's case.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Dr Abu Bakr al-Qirbi was unable to comment on Al-Moayad's chances to return to Yemen. “The case is [in the hands of] the United States Department of Justice,” he said. Al-Qirbi added that diplomatic pressure should be exerted towards returning Al-Moayad and Zayed to Yemen.

Ibrahim Al-Moayad, the son of al-Moayad, is very optimistic. “There is a chance of release if political and diplomatic pressure is exerted by the Yemeni government.”

The Yemen Times could not reach the American embassy before the press deadline.

As part of the efforts to help Al-Moayad and Zayed, Allawo encouraged women in human rights organizations and political parties to organize and take part in demonstrations in favor of Al-Moayad and Zayed's return.

Allawo further suggested that Yemeni syndicates and SCOs send a letter to the president to give him more strength during American-Yemeni negotiations. He also recommended Yemeni individuals and SCOs to send a letter to the American president urging him to release Al-Moayad and Zayed.

He called on the German government to help by asking the US government for their release, as Germany was initially involved in handing over Al-Moayad to the U.S. government.

In 2003, Al-Moayad was led by Mohammed Al-'Ansi, a Yemeni agent for the FBI, to Germany to receive donations from a Muslim donor named Saeed, according to The New York Times newspaper. After Al-Moayad and his aide Zayed's arrest, German Law enforcement handed Al-Moayad over to the USA.

Al-'Ansi set fire to himself in front of the White House in 2004 in protest at bad treatment by FBI agents and lack of appropriate payment for his role in the case, which he claimed should have been USD 5 million.

“What most helped the cases of Al-Moayad and Zayed was that main evidence was found to be irrelevant,” said Allawo.

According to Allawo, no one was explicitly mentioned as funding terrorist activity during the taped conversations. The testimony of a young Scottish law student, whose cousin was killed in a Hamas-claimed suicide attack in Tel Aviv in 2002, was also used as evidence against Al-Moayad. On the same day as this attack, a group wedding arranged by Al-Moayad was been celebrated in Yemen.

“The Court of Appeals believed that judge Sterling Johnson of the United States District Court for the eastern district of New York was wrong at the first place to allow such evidence because it must affect the jury,” said Allawo during the workshop.

“If we now move well and fast, we can bring Al-Moayad and Zayed back [to Yemen],” he concluded.