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Yemen welcomes cleric expelled from US

After 75 years in jail for supporting "terrorism"

Published:

Yemen staged a warm welcome on Tuesday for an ailing Muslim cleric expelled from the United States after originally being sentenced to 75 years in jail for supporting terrorism.

Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad returned home after a U.S. federal judge on Friday ordered his deportation, along with his assistant and bodyguard Mohammed Zayed.

Three Yemeni government ministers, including the foreign, justice and human rights ministers, as well as tribal chiefs and political leaders were on hand at Sanaa airport to greet the men, an AFP correspondent said.

The ailing 61-year-old, who according to his American lawyer is dying from various ailments including cirrhosis, made no public comments after his arrival and was immediately taken to hospital for medical tests, relatives said.

"This is a big day," one of them said on condition of anonymity.

The former imam of Sanaa's main mosque, Moayad was arrested with Zayed in Frankfurt, Germany in 2003, and subsequently the pair were extradited to the United States where they were tried on charges of supporting terrorism.

At the time of their arrest, then U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said that Moayad admitted giving al-Qaeda terror network chief Osama bin Laden $20 million dollars before the Sept. 11 2001 attacks on the United States.

But the defense team insisted that the claim was tainted by the main informant's lack of credibility, with one of the U.S. lawyers, William Goodman, saying the U.S. government tried to "entrap" Moayad.

In 2005 the pair were found guilty of supporting terrorism, and Moayad was sentenced to 75 years in jail, while his assistant received an equally lengthy prison term.

In October a U.S. court of appeal overturned Moayad and Zayed's convictions, stating that the judge in the 2005 case allowed evidence during the trial that tainted the jury against the defendants.