A judge on Thursday sentenced a Yemeni cleric who bragged about his ties to Osama bin Laden to 75 years in prison, the maximum penalty in a case that was shaken when the star witness set himself on fire outside the White House.
“Your honor, what have I done?” Sheik Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad said as he was led away to begin serving his sentence.
He was convicted on charges of conspiring to support al-Qaeda and Hamas, supporting the Palestinian group and attempting to support al-Qaeda.
Al-Moayad, 57, was secretly recorded promising to funnel more than $2 million to Hamas in a meeting with two FBI informants in a German hotel room. He was arrested by German police in January 2003 and extradited to the United States.
U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson on Thursday called the conversations “chilling.” While the trial was not about the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, the evidence of al-Moayad’s ties to bin Laden and Hamas required a stiff sentence.
“We all remember September the 11th,” Johnson said.
One of the informants, Mohamed Alanssi, set himself on fire outside the White House in November 2004 in what he later described as an attempt to get more money from the FBI, which paid him at least $100,000 for his work.
Alanssi nonetheless testified at al-Moayad’s trial that the sheik had boasted of giving bin Laden $20 million in the years before the Sept. 11 attacks.