NEW YORK – A former FBI informant testified at the terror-funding trial for a Yemeni sheik and his assistant that the defendant had boasted of supplying arms, money and fighters to Usama bin Laden (search ).
Mohamed Alanssi (search ), called as a hostile witness for the defense, testified Thursday that Sheik Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad told him he gave $20 million to bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks and $3.5 million to the terrorist group Hamas.
"He told me he helps Al Qaeda with money and arms and he send mujahedeen (search) to Chechnya and Afghanistan," Alanssi said, speaking through an Arabic-English interpreter.
Alanssi was to be the star prosecution witness in the trial before he set himself on fire outside the White House three months ago, claiming the FBI reneged on promises of money and U.S. citizenship. The defense then called Alanssi to the stand in an effort to portray him as unstable, greedy and untruthful.
Defense attorney Howard Jacobs asked whether al-Moayad, who runs religious charities in Yemen, explicitly stated he funneled money to Islamist fighters.
Alanssi replied that it wasn't necessary.
"The charitable work of Sheik Moayad is a front, and the money he gets is for mujahedeen," a militant group whose name means holy fighters, Alanssi said.
Jacobs asked to strike the response from the record.
"No," Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. replied. "You asked it."
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.
Alanssi allegedly lured al-Moayad and his assistant, co-defendant Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed, to Germany by posing as the fixer for another informant who wanted to donate $2.5 million to Hamas and Al Qaeda.
For his work, Alanssi said he had asked the FBI for $5 million, American citizenship and his family's relocation to the United States. "After I chase the terrorist and I bring him here to America I deserve even $10 million," he said.
Alanssi was dropped from the government's witness list after he set his clothing on fire outside the White House. Without Alanssi, who was burned over a third of his body, the government relied more heavily on surveillance tapes and the case began to center almost entirely on the Hamas (search) allegations.
By calling Alanssi as a hostile witness, defense lawyers were taking a gamble. They hoped to damage his credibility and blunt the damage from tapes secretly recorded over four days in a German hotel
Al-Moayad and Zayed are charged with conspiring to fund and attempting to fund Hamas and Al Qaeda. Al-Moayad also is charged with supporting the terrorist groups.
If convicted, Al-Moayad could receive a 60-year prison sentence and Zayed three decades.