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US Court Sentences Hezbollah Operative to 40 Years in Jail

US Court Sentences Hezbollah Operative to 40 Years in Jail

Wednesday, 4 December, 2019 - 05:45
Hezbollah fighters parade during a ceremony to honor fallen comrades, in Tefahta village, south Lebanon, February 18, 2017. (AP)

An American of Lebanese descent was sentenced to 40 years in prison on Tuesday for buying weapons and plotting attacks on behalf of the Lebanese Hezbollah party.

Ali Kourani, 34, was found guilty in May of gathering intelligence on potential attack targets, including New York's JFK International Airport and a federal building in Manhattan.

A federal court in America's financial capital convicted him of eight allegations including conspiracy to use weapons in a violent crime.

Geoffrey Berman, attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the lengthy sentence sent an important message to Hezbollah, which the United States considers a terrorist organization.

"If you are caught planning harm against this City and its residents, you will face justice and be held accountable," he said in a statement.

Authorities said Kourani came to the US legally in 2003, earning a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering in 2009 and a master’s degree in business administration in 2013. He became a naturalized US citizen in April 2009 and was issued a US passport.

Prosecutors said Kourani was recruited by the group after a family residence was destroyed in 2006 during the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah.

They said he traveled to Lebanon in 2011, when he learned to use a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, assault rifles, a submachine gun, a machine gun and a Glock pistol.

Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said Kourani served as a Hezbollah operative, helping the organization prepare for potential future attacks against the US.

He said trial evidence showed that Kourani searched for suppliers who could provide weapons for attacks against the US. Demers said the evidence also showed that Kourani identified people who could be recruited or targeted for violence and gathered information or conducted surveillance of possible terrorism targets.

Hezbollah has been blamed for attacks in France, Lebanon and Bulgaria, among others.

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