Sheikh Mohammed Al-Moayyad: a philanthropist in a U.S. jail [Archives:2008/1188/Opinion]

September 8 2008

Raddad Al-Sallami
The worst crime committed by the U.S. Administration against Yemenis is the kidnapping of aged sheikh Mohammed Al-Moayyad and his companion Mohammed Zayed on baseless and inauthentic charges. They were arrested on false speculations fabricated by an agent who burnt himself over unfulfilled promises made by the U.S. Administration.

All Yemeni people know that the 65-year-old sheikh has nothing to do with charges filed against him, and under which he was induced to Frankfort Airport in Germany on Feb. 10, 2003 as he was flying to the German city for medical treatment. He was cheated in a way violating the international law.

Al-Moayyad was subsequently transferred to the United States of America on Feb. 16, 2003 following a false report by an intelligence agent. Al-Moayyad has been known as a man of charity and humanitarian assistance for the needy and poor.

During his visit to Washington, President Saleh asked for the repatriation of Sheikh Mohammed Ali Hassan Al-Moayyad, a Yemeni religious scholar extradited from Germany to the United States (along with his assistant Mohammed Zayed), where he is serving a prison term after being convicted of supporting Hamas (but acquitted of supporting al-Qaeda).

Yemeni human rights organizations are agitating for the sheikh's release on the grounds of declining health. The head of a national committee to free Al-Moayyad (who is popular in Yemen for his charitable work) notes that, since “Europe and the whole international community are (now) dealing with Hamas as an independent entity, why is it forbidden for Al-Moayyad?” (quoted from the Yemen Observer).

Other Yemeni nationals suffer similar ordeals:

Saleh also discussed the case of Yemeni citizens held in Guantanamo Bay. Although official Yemeni sources claim that Saleh requested the release of all the Yemeni Guantanamo Bay prisoners, there are signs that Yemen's government is not overeager for their repatriation.

In a March visit to Yemen, Marc Falkoff, a lawyer for 17 of the Yemeni detainees, revealed that he had obtained documents from the Pentagon showing that many of the Yemeni prisoners had been eligible for repatriation as far back as June 2004.

The Yemeni government justifies its inaction by claiming that the citizenship of some of the Yemeni detainees is under question. According to Falkoff, “Fully one-third of the Saudis are back in Saudi Arabia, more than half of the Afghanis are home with their families and every single European national has been released from Guantanamo.

Yet, more than 100 Yemenis remain at the prison)sitting in solitary confinement on steel beds, deprived of books and newspapers, slowly going insane” (quoted from the Yemen Times).

U.S. officials claim that there are 107 Yemeni prisoners at Guantanamo, while human rights activists cite as many as 150, but there is no doubt that Yemenis form the largest single group of foreign nationals detained at the facility. Although the government may be in no hurry for their return, reports of alleged torture practiced on Yemeni detainees in U.S.-run detention centers have inflamed anti-American sentiment in Yemen.