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Men accused of funding al Qaeda appear in court

Two Yemenis in U.S. custody after extradition from Germany

Sheikh Ali Hassan al-Moayad, shown in this file photo, was arrested last winter in Germany.
Sheikh Ali Hassan al-Moayad, shown in this file photo, was arrested last winter in Germany.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Two Yemenis extradited to the United States from Germany on Sunday appeared in a Brooklyn federal courtroom Monday afternoon on charges they provided millions of dollars to support the al Qaeda terrorist network and Hamas.

Sheikh Ali Hassan al-Moayad, former imam of a mosque in the Yemeni capital of San'a, and his alleged assistant, Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed, both told Magistrate Judge Joan Azrack that they understand the charges against them.

Both men were remanded to custody. The government has 30 days to indict them.

The two men were handed over to U.S. officials by German prosecutors and flown from Frankfurt to New York, ending a lengthy effort by U.S. prosecutors to take custody of the suspects and put them on trial.

U.S. charges against al-Moayad, filed earlier this year, say he has boasted of meeting several times with Osama bin Laden. Al-Moayad has also said that he personally delivered $20 million to bin Laden to support jihad in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Kashmir. (Full story)

The charges were filed in the Eastern District of New York because al-Moayad had allegedly claimed that some of the money he provided to al Qaeda was collected at the Al Farouq mosque in Brooklyn. Al-Moayad, who was in Germany last winter for medical treatment, was arrested January 10 along with Zayed.

Zayed is charged with conspiracy for providing money to al-Moayad for the stated purpose of supporting al Qaeda and Hamas, which have been designated terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Department.

Hamas is a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization. Its military wing has acknowledged terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers.

The extradition process moved swiftly after a German court approved the transfer Thursday, declaring the suspects could receive a fair trial in the United States.

Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a statement Monday praising Germany's cooperation in the case.

"The valuable assistance of Germany in this matter demonstrates that the war on terrorism is global, and together we will work with our allies to ensure that terrorist acts are prevented and that justice is done," Ashcroft said.

The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force conducted a yearlong investigation and undercover operation that focused on al-Moayad's alleged supply of money, recruits, weapons and communications equipment to al Qaeda and Hamas.

If convicted on the charges, al-Moayad could receive a sentence of up to 60 years in prison, and Zayed could be sentenced to as much as 30 years.

Al-Moayad's attorney said his client suffers from diabetes and asthma.

From CNN senior producer Ronni Berke and justice producer Terry Frieden.

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