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A federal appeals court Thursday overturned the convictions of a Yemeni cleric and his deputy, finding they were prejudiced by inflammatory testimony about unrelated terrorism links in a case the United States once touted as a victory in its war against terrorism.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Thursday that Sheik Mohammed Ali Al-Moayad and Mohammed Mohsen Zayed, convicted of supporting terrorists, can have new trials. The three-judge panel took the unusual step of ordering the transfer of the case to a new judge.

The men were convicted in federal court in Brooklyn after a six-week trial in early 2005 on charges of conspiring to support al-Qaida and Hamas, supporting the Palestinian group and attempting to support al-Qaida. Their trial featured testimony by an FBI informant who set himself on fire outside the White House, saying he wanted more money from the FBI.

Al-Moayad, 60, was sentenced to 75 years in prison. Zayed, 34, was sentenced to 45 years.

The appeals court said the defendants were prejudiced by testimony from a Scottish law student who told of a deadly suicide bombing on a bus in Tel Aviv and by an American citizen of Yemeni heritage who attended an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan in 2001.


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