The Yemen-born federal informant who set himself on fire outside the White House on Monday remained hospitalized yesterday in serious condition, while FBI and Justice Department officials continued to decline comment on the incident and on his contention that the FBI had mishandled his case.
Mohamed Alanssi's attempted suicide came after he alleged in interviews and a handwritten note that the FBI had failed to keep all of its promises to him after he helped the organization obtain evidence against a Yemeni cleric who is facing trial in New York in January on charges of providing material support to al Qaeda.
Alanssi, 52, whom law enforcement sources said is being guarded round-the-clock at Washington Hospital Center by FBI agents from the Washington field office, was expected to be a government witness at that trial.
On Monday, a defense attorney in the case filed papers in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., asking that portions of recorded conversations the government plans to use at the trial be suppressed because they contain comments translated improperly from Arabic to English by Alanssi.
The audiotaped and videotaped conversations were made during an FBI sting operation in Germany against cleric Mohammed Ali Hassan Al Moayad and his aide, Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed. Alanssi's role in the January 2003 operation was to arrange for Moayad and Zayed to meet an FBI undercover agent in Frankfurt, according to Alanssi and others familiar with the case.
While he was being taped by U.S. and German agents, Moayad allegedly boasted of sending money and recruits to al Qaeda. Zayed also was arrested and is to go on trial with Moayad.
Jonathan Marks, who is representing Zayed, said in an interview yesterday that he expected Alanssi to be an important government witness because he was the only person who knew both Arabic and English and acted as a translator during the conversations between the defendants and the FBI undercover agent.
"He is their [the government's] witness," Marks said of Alanssi. "He is the case."
Marks said that the court papers he filed on Monday allege that Alanssi "mistranslated and embellished" many comments of the defendants and the undercover agent.
The defense motion seeks to have the English-language portions of the tapes suppressed. Although prosecutors have said that jurors will be given accurate written English translations of the Arabic heard on the recordings, Marks said in his motion that it "is unrealistic to expect the jury to ignore what they hear and follow only what they read."
Alanssi, whose condition was upgraded from critical to serious yesterday, was burned over 30 percent of his body, a hospital spokesman said.
The Falls Church resident had said in recent interviews and notes that he faxed to The Washington Post and the FBI's New York office that he was particularly upset that he could not travel to Yemen to visit his seriously ill wife and his six children because the FBI was holding his Yemeni passport.
Alanssi said in interviews that the FBI had promised him, among other things, U.S. residency and enough money to make him a millionaire. So far, he said, the FBI has paid him $100,000, and he has not received papers allowing him to live in this country.
An FBI spokesman yesterday did not return a reporter's calls seeking comment on Alanssi's claims. Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said: "We have no comment."
Staff writers Allan Lengel and Susan Schmidt contributed to this report.