Bogus case against Yemenis unravels
Published Jun 13, 2005 8:58 PM
From Mumia Abu-Jamal to Leonard
Peltier, political prisoners are no strangers to U.S. prisons. The so-called
“war on terror” has served as a war of terror against the Arab and
Muslim communities within the U.S. and abroad. From Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib
to immigration detention centers and federal prisons, it has meant the political
imprisonment of Arabs and Muslims.
The cause of Palestine has been
specifically targeted for persecution.
The case of Sheikh Mohammed
al-Moayad and Mohammed Zayad, Yemeni citizens currently imprisoned in the
Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., after being kidnapped and
brought to the United States, is one of the most egregious examples of the U.S.
government’s abuse of the law, human rights and national sovereignty in
the name of the “war on terror.”
Al-Moayad and Zayad
were humanitarian activists in Yemen. Known as “Father of the
Orphans,” al-Moayad established numerous charitable and community
institutions, including bakeries that provided food to 9,000 indigent families,
schools for boys and girls, medical clinics, computer training centers and
mosques in his community in Yemen.
In addition, al-Moayad worked
tirelessly for the rights of Palestinians, under occupation and in exile,
raising funds to support Palestinian charities--funds that went to establish
schools and provide food for Palestinian children. Al-Moayad is well-known and
well-respected in Yemeni society, having served in Parliament and held various
honorary positions. Mohammed Zayad was his assistant.
the case indicated that neither was under any scrutiny by the Yemeni government
or, for that matter, the U.S. government, until the appearance in al-Moayad's
life of an informant named Mohamed Alanssi.
based on paid informant
Mohamed Alanssi is a Yemeni who came to the
United States and became known as a small-scale con artist. Fearing deportation
after Sept. 11, 2001, Alanssi saw an opportunity both to regularize his
immigration status and to profit financially, the defense committee for
al-Moayad and Zayad reports. He offered his services as a confidential informant
to the FBI, and gave them the name of a prominent Muslim leader: Sheikh
Testimony and later press coverage (Washington Post,
Nov. 21, 2004, "Informant's Fire Brings Shadowy Tale") would reveal that Alanssi
made promises of spectacular information concerning millions of dollars in
funding to al-Qaeda. He was sent to Yemen, where he ingratiated himself with
al-Moayad and Zayad, eventually luring them to Germany by telling them that an
American convert to Islam wished to provide a $2-million donation for their
In Germany, the man they met--a disguised FBI
agent--acted oddly. In FBI recordings of their private conversations, entered
into evidence in their trial, al-Moayad and Zayad discussed leaving Germany to
return to Yemen. While they were suspicious of their "donor," they did not know
they had walked into an FBI trap.
They were arrested and quickly
extradited to the U.S. amid massive publicity and a John Ashcroft press
conference heralding the capture of a major funding source for
Alanssi’s network of lies soon began to collapse.
He squandered his initial $100,000 FBI payoff, then demanded $5 million for his
false testimony about al-Moayad and Zayad.
When the FBI refused,
he set himself on fire in front of the White House.
for Palestinian charities only
unsubstantiated and false claims, Ashcroft’s charges soon fell apart. In
court, the prosecution presented evidence only that Al-Moayad and Zayad had
fund-raised for Palestinian charities, charities the U.S. labeled as
“connected to Hamas,” a Palestinian resistance organization--the
kinds of charges the U.S. government has used to shut down numerous charities
working to help Palestinian children survive.
Hamas’s charitable wing is entirely legal in Yemen, and also in Germany.
Al-Moayad and Zayad had never fund-raised in the United States at all. But now
they stood trial under a foreign legal system for supporting Palestinians--which
was no crime at all in their homeland.
In the courtroom, the U.S.
government’s criminalization of Arabs and Muslims was apparent. One
prosecutor, addressing the judge and court reporters, referred to a verse from
the Koran as “the terrorist verse.” A Palestinian American lawyer
was delayed entry into the case because she was deemed “risky” as a
foreign-born U.S. citizen.
The government introduced testimony that
al-Moayad’s support for the right to return of Palestinian refugees was a
sign of his “extremism.” Its tactics demonized Palestinian
resistance in Palestine. A prosecutor cried in court when discussing a
Palestinian resistance operation.
Moayad and Zayad were eventually
acquitted of supporting al-Qaeda. But they were convicted of supporting
Palestinian resistance groups--one of the many charges of “material
support” that have been pursued by the U.S. government in its war on the
Arab and Muslim communities within the U.S. and abroad, as it attempts to
criminalize support for Palestine and terrorize the community into
Al-Moayad and Zayad are currently awaiting sentencing.
Community support is essential to seeing that justice is done for these men, for
all political prisoners, for Arab and Muslim communities under assault and for
Palestine. On May 13, a demonstration was held at the Metropolitan Detention
Center. Another is being planned for the day of their sentencing. A longer
discussion of the case, as well as a letter to the judge that can be signed in
support of al-Moayad and Zayad, can be found at
Charlotte Kates is an organizer with
New Jersey Solidarity-Activists for the Liberation of Palestine as well as
Al-Awda NY, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, which is working to support
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