A federal court in New York sentenced on Thursday Shaikh Muhammad Ali Hasan al-Muayad, arrested after an FBI operation in 2003. It also fined him $1.25 million.

"We were shocked by this ruling. This ruling is null and void," Zakaria al-Muayad said.

"If providing support for the Palestinian people is a crime in the United States, it is not a crime in Yemen. And if we accept this ruling, then we must jail millions of Yemenis who donate food, clothes and medicines to the Palestinians."

Berlin arrest

Al-Muayad and his assistant, Muhammad Zayid, also from Yemen, were arrested in Frankfurt in January 2003 and charged with helping the al-Qaida network.

"If we accept this ruling, then we must jail millions of Yemenis who donate food, clothes and medicines to the Palestinians"

Zakaria al-Muayad

In March, a federal jury found al-Muayad and Zayid guilty of conspiring to provide material support and resources to al-Qaida between October 1999 and January 2003, and to the Palestinian resistance group Hamas between October 1997 and January 2003.

During the trial, Assistant US Attorney Pamela Chen had played the jury several surveillance tapes from a sting operation in a German hotel in which al-Muayad bragged to two FBI informants about his close links with Bin Laden.

One of the informants, Muhammad Alanssi, was seriously injured in November when he set himself on fire outside the White House in Washington. He had complained about his treatment by the FBI after helping with several investigations.

At the trial, he testified as a hostile witness for the defence after prosecutors declined to put him on the stand.

Maximum sentence

Al-Muayad was convicted on 10 March after jurors dismissed the defence argument that he had been unfairly entrapped by the FBI operation.

"Those who finance terrorist attacks, and rejoice in the murder of innocent victims, are no different from those who plant the bombs or carry the backpacks," Roslynn Mauskopf, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said after Thursday's sentencing.

"Money is the lifeblood of terrorism, and this master terrorist financier richly deserves the maximum sentence imposed today," Mauskopf said.