U.S may lead Yemen in extradition bid Germany still holds al-Qaeda suspects [Archives:2003/03/Front Page]

January 20 2003

A German court ordered on Tuesday that two Yemeni citizens suspected of links to the al Qaeda network be detained in custody pending an official extradition request by the United States.
German anti-terrorism officials have said the men, arrested last week in a Frankfurt hotel on a U.S. request, are Sheikh Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Mouayad and Mohammed Moshen Yahya Zayed. U.S. justice authorities say the two are al Qaeda supporters, but have not linked them directly with the September 11 attacks.
The Frankfurt regional court said in a statement Tuesday that the two men would be held pending the delivery of an official extradition request from the United States, which must be received within 60 days.
The court said it would then have to rule again on how long the men should continue to be held and rule on the extradition request itself, although the final say on whether to extradite the men rested with the German government. The court said public hearings were unusual in extradition proceedings.
Yemeni officials have also said they have asked for the two suspects’ extradition and would interrogate them as soon as they returned home.
U.S. officials have said Sheikh Mohammed Ali al-Mouayad, a preacher at Al Ihsan Mosque, one of the main mosques in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, is a significant fund-raiser for al Qaeda but not a financial official for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Ahmed al-Mouayad, Sheikh Mohammed’s son, told Reuters in Sanaa his father had left for Frankfurt with his aide Mohammed Yahya Zayed for medical treatment and denied his father was connected to “any terrorist groups.”
Yemeni officials in Sanaa said both men were members of the Islah party. Islah party members denounced their arrest and said they had no connection to al Qaeda.
An extradition request by the United States could cause a legal battle with Germany, as German law does not allow the extradition of suspects if they could face the death penalty in the state to which they are extradited.
In November, Berlin only agreed to cooperate in the U.S. trial of French national Zacarias Moussaoui, charged over the September 11 attacks, after Washington assured Germany their evidence would not be used to obtain the death penalty.
Germany was an important launch pad for the September 11, 2001, hijacked airliner attacks on the United States blamed on al Qaeda. Three of the four pilots lived in the northern port city of Hamburg in the 1990s.
Yemen, the ancestral home of bin Laden, is seen in the West as a haven for Muslim militants, including the al Qaeda network.
Meanwhile, it’s been reported that the arrested sheikh Ali al-Mouyad told Yemen’s ambassador to Germany – Muhiyyieddin Al-Dhabi – that he was invited to Germany to receive financial aid, according to weekly 26 September.
“Al-Mouyad said that a Yemeni person, whose name was mentioned, told him that an American Muslim named ‘Saeed’ was willing to provide him with financial assistance to be spent on charity for Yemen. He said that the person said he would only give the money if al-Mouyad would travel either to Germany or the US for this reason,” said the newspaper.
Hence al-Mouyad said that he traveled to Germany only for this purpose and indeed met with ‘Saeed’, who gave him a check notebook two days before his arrest and told him that he can withdraw any amount he needs on a monthly basis. He also noted that the Yemeni person had disappeared following that,” added the newspaper.
The Yemeni government has reiterated its demand to hand over the arrested sheikh and his companion to Yemeni authorities according to international law.
At the same time intensified efforts are currently being exerted on the government by many Islah and religious affiliates to pressure the government to bring him back to Yemen.
“We thank the Yemeni government for its initial reaction concerning the arrest of Al-Mouyad in Germany,” the preacher of Al-Ihsan mosque said last week.
Several small rallies took place in various areas in Sana’a in support of al-Mouyad and a petition was launched to collect as many signatures from the people as possible and deliver them to the government.