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Defense attorneys for accused terrorist funder Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad, a Yemeni sheikh thought to be one of Osama bin Laden's spiritual advisors, may have outsmarted themselves yesterday. Prosecutors in the case attempting to convict al-Moayad of conspiring to funnel money to al-Qaeda dropped one of their key witnesses to the case when he set himself on fire in front of the White House three months ago, protesting his handling by the government, and had to drop some charges from the indictment as a result. Instead of counting their blessings, however, the defense called Mohammed Alanssi in a bid to show that investigators used an unstable crook to set up al-Moayad.
Defiant, still obviously bitter about his treatment by government agents and expressing entitlement to millions he has not been paid, the Yemeni-born Mr. Alanssi said he deserved money for the risks he took in helping America fight terrorism.
He took some verbal shots at the federal agents who were once his allies, but he also tried to demolish the defense, unloading accusations that the jury had not heard yet concerning what he said were the sheik's ties to Osama bin Laden and commitment to jihad.
These were the components that the prosecution were forced to drop after Alanssi's departure from the case, and they are powerful testimony against the sheikh. One wonders why the defense gambled with Alanssi, except perhaps hoping to cause a complete meltdown on the stand and cause a spectacular backlash against the DA. However, it appears that they broke the first rule of litigation -- don't ever put a witness on the stand without knowing what will come out in the testimony. Alanssi, whose distaste for the prosecution came through clearly, still stuck to his story and performed quite well:
He was ready to spar with the defense lawyers. One of them, Howard L. Jacobs, led him through a list of accusations he had made against the sheik and an aide, who are charged with conspiracy and providing material support to Al Qaeda and Hamas, the Palestinian militant organization.
The sheik's charity, which the defense has claimed was his life's work, was "a front," Mr. Alanssi testified. When the sheik had spoken of needing medical care, it was a code for collecting money for jihad, he said. ...
Yesterday, he was working to damage the defense that had called him after the prosecution discarded him. The prosecutors were taking their chances with the secretly recorded Frankfurt videotapes in which he has been seen leading the sheik toward what has become one of the Justice Department's most visible terrorism-financing cases.
Mr. Jacobs, shouting, challenged Mr. Alanssi, claiming that much of what he said was uncorroborated. "We have to take your word for it, is that right?"
Mr. Alanssi half-turned toward the translator as he answered the questions in Arabic. "The proof is there," he said calmly, without missing a beat. "Just run the video and see the tape and everything is obvious."
The jurors have seen the Frankfurt tapes and have been given prosecution transcripts quoting the sheik as saying that jihad was his field and that he would give money to "Hamas, Al Qaeda, prisoners, mujahedeen and such."
Prosecutors can recall him for later testimony, but the New York Times notes that much of it would be redundant. Alanssi also testified that al-Moayad told him that the sheikh had given over $20 million to Osama bin Laden over the years prior to 9/11, years that included a number of al-Qaeda attacks on American assets abroad. Those conversations were not recorded, and would not have come out in testimony had the defense not used Alanssi as a witness.
It would behoove al-Moayad to start working on his appeal now. Incompetent defense appears to have promise as grounds.Sphere It View blog reactions
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