(JTA) – A Cypriot court convicted an admitted Hezbollah agent of plotting to attack Israeli tourists.
Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, 24, a citizen of Lebanon and Sweden, was found guilty Thursday on five of the eight charges, including participation in a criminal organization, in a ruling that could have significant repercussions for Hezbollah operations in Europe.
Yaacoub, who admitted in court last month that he was a member of Hezbollah, will be sentenced March 28, according to a report by the Swedish television station SVT.
“It has been proven that Hezbollah is an organization that operates under complete secrecy," The New York Times quoted the head of the three-judge panel that ruled on the case, Tasia Psara-Miltiadou, as saying in court on Thursday. "There is no doubt that this group has multiple members and proceeds with various activities including military training of its members. Therefore the court rules that Hezbollah acts as a criminal organization.”
Yaacoub said he was trained in the use of weapons and dispatched around Europe on missions as a courier and a scout for Hezbollah, which the United States and Israel have labeled a terrorist group. He is believed to have made maps during a visit to the Mediterranean island in November 2011, taking into account popular modes of transport frequented by Israeli tourists.
The court rejected his assertion that he had no idea why his handlers asked him to monitor the arrival times of flights from Israel.
Last month, Bulgarian authorities blamed Hezbollah for a bus bombing in Burgas in July that killed five Israelis and one Bulgarian.
Observers said the conviction may give further impetus to efforts to have Hezbollah designated a terrorist organization by the European Union, as it has been urged by Israel and the United States, as well as some of its member states.