[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] Thursday overturned [opinion, PDF] the convictions of Yemeni cleric Sheikh Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad and assistant, Mohammed Zayed [advocacy website], also from Yemen, because of evidentiary errors that were prejudicial to the extent that they deprived the defendants of a fair trial. Al-Moayad and Zayed had been convicted [JURIST report] in March 2005 on charges that they lead a terror-funding network based in Brooklyn, NY. At their convictions, both maintained that additional evidence on government surveillance recordings would have showed they were not guilty. During their appeal, Al-Moayad and Zayed argued that they had been entrapped by government informants and presented character witnesses who said neither of the two condoned violence and that they had spoken out against terrorist acts. In support of its ruling the appeals court said:
We believe that, in the aggregate, the district courts errors deprived the defendants of a fair trial. The district courts cumulated errors in admitting Al-Anssis notes and the testimony of Gideon Black and Yahya Goba cast such a serious doubt on the fairness of the trial as to warrant reversal of the defendants convictions. That doubt is especially grave when we also take into account the district courts erroneous admission of the mujahidin form, the wedding video, and the Croatian last will and testament, as well as its questionable handling of the derivative entrapment issue.CNN has more. The New York Times has local coverage.
In July 2005, a judge from the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] sentenced Al-Moayad to 75 years in prison and fined him $1.25 million. Al-Moayad and Zayed were arrested in Germany in 2003 after telling a federal agent posing as a US businessman that they would help him funnel money to militants. Al-Moayad was later extradited to the United States where he was acquitted of actually funding al-Qaeda, but was found guilty of providing material support and resources to Hamas.