updated 2/17/2005 7:43:31 PM ET 2005-02-18T00:43:31

An FBI informant who was set to be the star prosecution witness in a terrorism trial until he set himself ablaze outside the White House took the stand for the defense Thursday, saying he had sought $5 million for having led prosecutors to a Yemeni sheik he says gave Osama bin Laden money, arms and fighters.

“I deserve that,” Mohamed Alanssi said through an Arabic-English interpreter. “After I chase the terrorist and I bring him here to America I deserve even $10 million.”

Alanssi quickly laid out some of the government’s most serious allegations against Sheik Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad, who is charged with supporting al-Qaida and Hamas and with conspiring to fund and attempting to fund the terrorist groups.

“He told me he gave bin Laden more than $20 million” before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Alanssi told jurors in federal court. “He told me he helps al-Qaida with money and arms and he send mujahedeen to Chechnya and Afghanistan.”

Star witness’ act changed prosecutors’ case
Alanssi was the sole source of some of the government’s most dramatic claims about al-Moayad, among them that the sheik said he personally handed $20 million to bin Laden.

Alanssi was dropped from the government’s witness list after he set his clothing on fire in front of the White House in November to protest what he called the FBI’s failure to make good on its promises of wealth and U.S. citizenship.

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 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 the tapes, which were secretly recorded over four days in a Frankfurt, Germany, hotel.

Donations to Hamas, al-Qaida alleged
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-Qaida.

The tapes show al-Moayad and Zayed apparently promising to help the informants donate the money, with a 10 percent commission for the defendants’ Yemeni charities. Jurors also saw al-Moayad and Zayed on the tapes discussing code words for ammunition and weapons and condemning Americans and Jews.

Al-Moayad and Zayed were arrested and extradited to the United States.

Al-Moayad could be sentenced to 60 years in prison if convicted of all charges. Zayed, who is accused of conspiring to fund and attempting to fund Hamas and al-Qaida, could serve three decades if convicted.

Alanssi said he had gone to work for the government because of his horror at the 2001 terrorist attacks.

“It was my duty to cooperate with the American government against the terrorists that I know,” Alanssi said. “That’s my duty.”

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