Satar denies terror link [Archives:2004/712/Front Page]

February 16 2004

By Yemen Times Staff
and Associated Press

NEW YORK – U.S. authorities believe a prominent Yemeni politician roamed the city in late 1999 to secretly raise money for terrorist operations, according to testimony in a U.S. federal case.
But Sheik Abdullah Satar is already denying the allegations that were made public for the first time this week at the trial of Numan Maflahi, a Yemen-born convenience store owner charged with making false statements about the alleged fund-raising scheme.
During a four-day visit in late 1999, Satar was escorted by Maflahi, 31, as he collected donations – purportedly for an orphan charity – at mosques in Brooklyn and Manhattan, FBI agent Brian Murphy testified.
The charity, Murphy alleged, was a front for radical Muslim groups.
News accounts describe Satar, who has not been charged, as an outspoken opposition party leader in Yemen who has opposed the decision to allow U.S. forces to enter the country to train troops to combat terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
When the FBI confronted Maflahi about Satar last year, the defendant said he knew the sheik was a famous figure in his homeland, “like Hillary Clinton,” Murphy told jurors.
But he allegedly insisted he had only met Satar in passing and denied helping him raise money – the basis for the false-statement charge.
Maflahi's attorney, Hassen Ibn Abdellah, reminded jurors that his client was not charged with any terror-related counts. He accused prosecutors of repeatedly mentioning terrorism “to inflame you, to prejudice you, to make you feel unpatriotic.”
If convicted, Maflahi could face up to five years in prison.
Sa'atar , a prominent leading member of the Islah party and former MP, described such reports as “false and baseless” and that they are “a business in the war on terrorism.”
F.B.I agent Murphy said in Brooklyn Federal Court that Sa'atar was under surveillance during a fund-raising swing through Brooklyn in early 2000.
Murphy testified that after Sa'atar left the U.S., he flew to Milan to meet “the No. 1 operative for Al Qaeda in Italy,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Moore.
Furthermore, sources have told The Yemen Times that a couple of months ago, Saatar received Saudi Rials 500,000 (approx YR 25 million) from the Mecca Welfare Association, which he represents in Yemen. He then distributed the amount to residents in districts in Mareb where Islah had won in the last parliamentary elections.
Sa'atar denied that he was in any means involved in raising or transferring money for terrorist operatives adding in his speech to al-Sahwanet that “it seems that charitable work would be victimized due to the exploitation of some terrorist groups for charitable work.”
He added that he would continue mobilizing and raising money for charitable purposes and that nobody can stop him from doing that because “we trust our goals and means.” He observed that there are many charitable associations in the US and that no one has accused them of having links to terrorism.
He said that the US bases its charges for him on his preaching in Italy where he criticized the US policy and the Jews.
“My criticism and opposition for the US support to the Zionist aggression in Palestine is a religion for me. I worship God in working against terrorism and injustice that the Palestinian people are going through, and I do not hide that at all.”
In January of last year, skeikh Mohammed al-Mouyad , another leading member of the Islah party, was arrested in Germany for the same charge.
He was turned over late last year, along with his companion Mohammed Zayed, to the US authorities which accuse al-Mouyad of having supplied $20-million, recruits and weapons to Osama bin Laden in the years leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks.
If convicted in the United States, Al-Mouyad would face up to 60 years in prison. Zayed, 29, would face 30 years.