Mohamed Alanssi is the government informer who set up a sting that snared a Yemeni sheik who was once, prosecutors claim, Osama bin Laden’s spiritual adviser. He was to be the prosecution’s star witness, until he set himself on fire outside the White House in November, protesting his handling by the government. Prosecutors dropped him as a witness, but yesterday he was on the witness stand in Brooklyn anyway, reports the New York Times.
In one of the stranger law enforcement stories since the Sept. 11 attacks, and quite possibly since long before that, it was the defense that called the government’s main informer to testify, hoping to discredit the prosecution’s case by portraying him as a greedy liar and a con man. Anyone expecting a courtroom spectacle was not disappointed. Defiant and still obviously bitter about his treatment by government agents and expressing entitlement to millions he has not been paid, the Yemeni-born Alanssi said he deserved money for the risks he took in helping America fight terrorism. He took some verbal shots at the federal agents who were once his allies, but he also tried to demolish the defense, unloading accusations that the jury had not heard yet concerning what he said were the sheik’s ties to Osama bin Laden.