Friday, February 18, 2005

Informant describes bin Laden conversations in testimony for defense at Brooklyn terror money trial

By MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN
Associated Press Writer
New York Sun

NEW YORK -- Three months after he set himself ablaze outside the White House, an FBI informant charged from the witness stand Thursday that a Yemeni sheik accused of funding terrorism boasted of supplying arms, money and fighters to Osama bin Laden.

Called as a hostile witness for the defense, informant Mohamed Alanssi said Sheik Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad described his support for terrorism in a series of private conversations. Jurors heard those conversations described for the first time Thursday.

"He told me he gave bin Laden more than $20 million" before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Alanssi said. "He told me he helps al-Qaida with money and arms and he send mujahedeen to Chechnya and Afghanistan."

Alanssi also charged that al-Moayad said he had given $3.5 million to Hamas.

Defense lawyers hoped to portray Alanssi as unstable, greedy and untruthful by introducing the White House incident, allegations of financial wrongdoing and inconsistencies in his story.

Alanssi was to have been the government's star witness until he set himself on fire in front of the White House last November to protest what he called the FBI's failure to make good on promises of wealth and U.S. citizenship. The government dropped him from its witness list.

On Thursday, he refused to give yes or no answers to many of defense attorney Howard Jacobs' questions, instead providing long explanations that portrayed al-Moayad as dedicated to violent struggle. Alanssi speaks English but used an Arabic interpreter, saying the testimony was so important he wanted to use his native tongue.

Jacobs asked whether al-Moayad, who runs religious charities in Yemen, explicitly stated he funneled money to Islamist fighters.

Alanssi, who wore a glove on his burned right hand, replied that it wasn't necessary.

"The charitable work of Sheik Moayad is a front, and the money he gets is for mujahedeen," Alanssi said.

Jacobs asked to strike the response from the record.

"No," Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. replied. "You asked it."

Alanssi said he had asked the FBI for $5 million, American citizenship and his family's relocation to the United States.

"I deserve that," Alanssi said. "After I chase the terrorist and I bring him here to America I deserve even $10 million."

Alanssi, 53, said he moved to the United States in 2000 and briefly worked at a Brooklyn travel agency before losing his job. He described his horror at the 2001 terrorist attacks as his motivation for helping the FBI.

"It was my duty to cooperate with the American government against the terrorists that I know," Alanssi said. "That's my duty."

He became the linchpin of the government's case against al-Moayad, traveling between the United States and Yemen before he lured the sheik and his assistant to Germany for a sting operation.

Posing as the fixer for an American Muslim who wanted to donate $2.5 million to Hamas and al-Qaida, Alanssi arranged four days of secretly recorded meetings in a Frankfurt hotel. The American was another government informant.

Al-Moayad and his assistant, Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed, were arrested and extradited to the United States, where they are charged with conspiring to fund and attempting to fund Hamas and al-Qaida. Al-Moayad also is charged with supporting the terror groups.

Without Alanssi, who was burned over a third of his body, the case had centered almost entirely on the Hamas allegations and the recordings, which show al-Moayad and Zayed apparently promising to help the informants donate the money, with a 10 percent commission for their charities.

Al-Moayad could receive a 60-year prison sentence if convicted. Zayed could serve three decades behind bars.
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