El Al airplanes sit on the runway Photo: Ronen Zvulun / ReutersA criminal court in Limassol, Cyprus, on Thursday sentenced Hezbollah operative Hossam Taleb Yaacoub to ??? four years ??? in prison for plotting to kill Israeli tourists on the small island. The prison sentence wraps up a criminal process that began last July when Yaacoub was arrested.
The Jerusalem Post has learned that he has ten days to appeal his conviction. Yaacoub admitted that he observed Israeli flights land in Cyprus and documented the movements of Israelis and locations where they stayed.
The conviction of Yaacoub may add greater urgency to the EU talks to include Hezbollah in its terror list. EU countries such as Austria and Germany have blocked a listing of Hezbollah because of insufficient legal evidence showing Hezbollah engages in terrorism. The Cyprus conviction represents the first conviction of a Hezbollah member in a European court.
Twenty four-year-old Yaacoub is a Swedish-Lebanese citizen who used France and the Netherlands as locations to carry out work for Hezbollah, according to his testimony at the trial. He was convicted on five of eight criminal charges. Yaacoub was arrested just days before an alleged Iran-Hezbollah operation blew up an Israeli tour bus in Bulgaria.
Two alleged Hezbollah operatives participated in the bombing of a tour bus in the Black Sea resort of Burgas in July 2012, which killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver. The suspects are believed to be in Lebanon. Both Hezbollah operatives used European locations to carry out their terror attack, including travelling through Poland and Romania.
The then-Bulgarian interior minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, announced in February that Hezbollah operatives had been responsible for the Burgas attack. Tsvetanov said the two suspected Burgas perpetrators “were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah” and added that investigators had found information “showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects.”
France has resisted including Hezbollah in the EU terror list because it fears that it will lose diplomatic leverage in Lebanon. The Netherlands lists Hezbollah’s entire organization as a terror entity. The United Kingdom labels Hezbollah’s military wing as terrorist group.
Labels: Bulgaria» Cyprus» EU» Hezbollah» Hossam Taleb» terrorism