Friday, April 24, 2009

HEZBOLLAH TV SELLER JAILED IN US

Satellite dish (file image)
Prosecutors said Iqbal was supporting terrorism by broadcasting al-Manar

A Pakistani man living in the US has been jailed for nearly six years for transmitting a television channel run by Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.

Javed Iqbal was accused of using his satellite TV company to distribute the al-Manar channel. The US has designated Hezbollah a terrorist organisation.

He pleaded guilty to the charges, saying he had "made a mistake".

The defence had said Iqbal did not support Hezbollah and the broadcasts were a small part of his business.

Prosecutors said Iqbal, 45, used his New York-based HDTV Ltd business to broadcast al-Manar for several months between 2005 and 2006.

They said the channel had paid him for doing so and that he then sold the service on to US customers.

"He was, in a very real sense, Hezbollah's man in New York City," said Assistant US Attorney Eric Snyder.

But Iqbal's defence lawyers said he had not profited from the service and had no ideological connection to Hezbollah.

"This is someone who made bad judgments for a reason that had nothing to do with terrorism or supporting terrorism and he paid a very high price for it," said lawyer Joshua Dratel.

"He is a businessman and sought to provide services he thought would generate profits," he said.

Mr Dratel said the Hezbollah broadcasts had been "one discreet and narrow aspect" of a channel which had also broadcast Christian programmes and adult entertainment.

In a statement read to the court, Iqbal, who is married with five children and a sixth due in July, said he was hurt "financially, emotionally and physically" by the case, and asked for leniency.

"I am a human being and human beings make mistakes," he said.

His lawyers had said the case was a violation of Iqbal's right to free speech.

The US added al-Manar to its list of terrorist organisations in 2004, saying anyone who "solicits funds or other things of value for al-Manar" would face prosecution.

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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