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2 Yemenis freed by US return home | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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SAN’A, Yemen (AP) – Two Yemenis jailed in the United States over terrorism charges received a tumultuous public welcome on their return home Tuesday after serving more than six years in prison.

Several ministers, tribal chiefs and hundreds of supporters welcomed Sheik Mohammed Ali Hasan Al-Moayad and his assistant at San’a airport brandishing his picture, Yemeni flags and banners saying it was “freedom’s day.”

The two were arrested in 2003 and convicted of supporting terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. Al-Moayad was sentenced to 75 years in prison and Mohammed Zayed received 45 years, but on Friday, they pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of supporting the Palestinian militant group Hamas and given six years time served.

Bodyguards of the tribal chiefs, brandishing Kalashnikov rifles, forced their way into the main airport hall defying security and police orders to welcome the returning men.

Al-Moayad, 60, a well-known cleric and high-ranking member of the Islah opposition party and Zayed changed out of their prison uniforms into local Yemeni garb.

Tens of thousands of supporters lined both sides of the road outside the airport as Al-Moayad’s motorcade made its way to the hospital for a routine checkup.

The sheik was reported to have been suffering from liver disease and other illnesses.

Sheik Abdel-Majid al-Zindani, who has been described as Osama bin Laden’s spiritual mentor, was among those welcoming Al-Moayad at the airport. The U.S. has called al-Zindani “a specially designated global terrorist” and his al-Imam University in San’a is said to finance Al Qaeda and recruit fighters.

Al-Moayad is expected to be received by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had worked with U.S. administration to release him.

«U.S. President George Bush’s administration has turned Al-Moayad into a national hero,» Mansour Ali, a writer and researcher, told The Associated Press at the airport.