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U.S. Links Yemeni Cleric to Al Qaeda Terrorists

A Yemeni cleric being held in Germany in a terrorism investigation secretly raised money and recruited troops for Al Qaeda and Hamas, according to U.S. prosecutors.

A complaint unsealed Tuesday in federal court in Brooklyn charges Sheik Mohammed Ali Hasan al-Moayad with providing material support to a terrorist network.

U.S. authorities consider his arrest a blow to Muslim charities used as fronts to finance terrorism.

Prosecutors allege al-Moayad told an informant that he "has provided material support, in the form of money, weapons, communications, equipment and recruits" to Al Qaeda and Hamas. He also allegedly claimed he "has met Usama bin Laden several times and has given bin Laden millions of dollars prior to Sept. 11."

The court papers say U.S. and German authorities had learned in December 2001 that Al-Moayad was involved in supplying money and militants for Al Qaeda.

Al-Moayad and his assistant, Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed, were arrested Jan. 10 in a sting operation near Frankfurt airport.

An informant who knew Al-Moayad was used to lure him to a bugged hotel room, where in a series of meetings he met another informant posing as a wealthy American Muslim who wanted to donate to Al Qaeda, the documents said. The second informant told al-Moayad he wanted to donate $2 million for "jihad," and that he wanted the money split between charities and Al Qaeda and Hamas.

Al-Moayad allegedly claimed he was one of bin Laden's spiritual advisers, and assured the informant that "the money would be used to support the mujahideen fighters of both Al Qaeda and Hamas," the papers said.

Al-Moayad, a leading member of Yemen's Islamic-oriented Reform party and a former legislator, had left Yemen 10 days before his arrest to seek treatment for diabetes in Germany, Yemeni officials said. The party has protested the arrest and Yemen has asked German authorities to return him.

A lawyer for al-Moayad has accused U.S. authorities of fabricating the charges against his client.

A Frankfurt court ordered Mohammed al-Moayad held there while U.S. prosecutors seek his extradition. The court papers filed Tuesday are part of that effort.

The United States has until March 31 to hand over evidence supporting al-Moayad's extradition, and until March 10 to finish submitting documents supporting the case against Zayed.

The U.S. documents identify the cleric as al-Moayad, although records in Germany used a different spelling -- al-Moayyed.