BERLIN — In a decision that could have significant repercussions for Hezbollah’s operations in Europe, a court in Cyprus found a man guilty Thursday of participating in a plot to attack Israeli tourists on vacation on the Mediterranean island, part of a conspiracy similar to a deadly bombing last July in Bulgaria.
The court found the man, Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, a dual Swedish-Lebanese citizen, guilty on five out of the eight charges, including participation in a criminal organization. The three others were conspiracy charges, which the head judge said in the ruling were already covered under the five counts. Yaacoub will be sentenced at a separate hearing.
‘‘It has been proven that Hezbollah is an organization that operates under complete secrecy. There is no doubt that this group has multiple members and proceeds with various activities including military training of its members,’’ the head of the three-judge panel that ruled on the case, Tasia Psara-Miltiadou, said in court Thursday. ‘‘Therefore the court rules that Hezbollah acts as a criminal organization.’’
Yaacoub admitted in court last month he was a member of Hezbollah, a Shi’ite militant group, and that he was trained in the use of weapons and dispatched around Europe on missions as a courier and a scout for the group. The court rejected his assertion that he had no idea why his handlers asked him to monitor the arrival times of flights from Israel and to track locations of Israeli tourists in Cyprus.
The conviction could accelerate efforts to have the group designated a terrorist organization by the European Union. Experts say that in the legalistic, bureaucratic world of Brussels, a court conviction holds significantly more weight than a declaration by a government or an intelligence report.
Israel and the United States have been pressing for European allies to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
New York Times