Will Berlin still save Zayed?Extradition approved [Archives:2003/686/Front Page]

November 17 2003

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has approved the extradition of Skeikh Mohammed al-Moayad and his companion Mohammed Zayed to the United States, where they are wanted on charges of supporting al-Qaida.
However, Yemen still hopes that there can be a political decision by the German government to over-ride the implementation of the court verdict.
The court said Sheikh Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad and his alleged assistant, Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed, could expect a fair trial in the United States, rejecting the complaints they filed against lower-court decisions backing extradition.
The two Yemeni citizens were arrested Jan. 10 in a sting operation at a Frankfurt hotel, where they had expected to meet a wealthy American Muslim who promised to finance al-Moayad’s charitable centers.
U.S. and German authorities say they learned in December 2001 that al-Moayad was involved in supplying money and militants for Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network as well as to the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas.
The American official sources alleged that al-Moayad, a leading member of the Islmic-oriented Islah party, told an FBI informant that he supplied $20 million, recruits and weapons to bin Laden in the years before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
However, he said that he was a victim of a trap plotted by the US intelligence in cooperation with one of its Yemeni agents. He said that he left Yemen for medical treatment in Germany 10 days before his arrest as he suffers from asthma and diabetes.
Yemen’s government repeatedly asked the US and German authorities to return the two men to Yemen where they can be tried if proved guilty.
According to U.S. prosecutors, if convicted in the United States, al-Moayad would face up to 60 years in prison, while Zayed, who faces a conspiracy charge, could be jailed for up to 30 years.
Washington has given Germany assurances that the suspects will not face a military court or any other special post-Sept. 11 tribunal, or be confined in an internment camp, the constitutional court said in a statement. Instead, they are expected to face a regular criminal court, the court said.
Achim Schlott-Kotschote, a Frankfurt attorney representing al-Moayad, said he will continue to fight the extradition.
“It means we are one step closer to his extradition, but the lawyers will do everything they can to prevent it,” he told Associated Press, adding that the case would be taken to the European Court of Human Rights.
Foreign Minister Dr. Abu Bakr al-Qirbi said that Yemen government would conduct dialogues with the German government which can, through a political decision, stop the extradition. He said that Yemen believes that the arrest of the two men was illegal and violates international law.
He emphasized that the German government said that the extradition does not necessarily mean its admission that he is indicted, but shows it is convinced with the evidence of the extradition.
Al-Qirbi said that Yemen might appeal the verdict before the European Court in case mutual diplomatic means fails.
Meanwhile, the Islah party did not strongly condemn the ruling and only urged the Yemen government to exercise more efforts, considering the verdict is disappointing.
Mohammed Kahtan, head of Isla’s political department said that “Germany seems to be restricted by agreements with the US and the verdict of the extradition of the al-Moayad and his assistant is a plight that needs patience.”
He said that the political and diplomatic efforts to be made before the US legislative and political institutions will make Yemen win the case.
However, a Western diplomatic source told Yemen Times that there is no hope that the two men can be turned over to Yemen, which has no security agreement with Germany to mutually turn over criminals.
“Yemen can now only do one thing, which is to fight for the innocence of them before the US court,” he said, on condition of anonymity.
The arrest of the two men last January sparked street protests in Sana’a, thousands condemned the decision and demanded the release of the prisoners.
At that time, protestors said that the extradition would harm Yemeni-German relations, and there have been fears of any revenge attacks against German interests in Yemen.
Accordingly, security measures around the US and German embassies have intensified since then.