Hezbollah march, fighters 370.
(photo credit: Reuters/Khalil Hassan)
BERLIN – A criminal court in Limassol, Cyprus, on Thursday convicted Hossam
Taleb Yaacoub of membership in a criminal organization.
Swedish-Lebanese citizen admitted last month that he was a member of Hezbollah
and had engaged in the surveillance of Israeli tourists. He was convicted on
five of eight criminal charges.
This marked the first time a Hezbollah
member was found guilty in a European Union court of criminal activity with
regard to the targeting of Israeli citizens.
Yaacoub is slated to be
sentenced on March 28.
Hezbollah is not listed as a terror organization
within the EU, and Cypriot authorities reduced the charges originally leveled
against Yaacoub from terrorism to criminal offenses last year.
admitted that Hezbollah’s job was to observe Jews across the globe and that he
had watched Israeli flights land in Cyprus.
A few weeks later, two
alleged Hezbollah operatives engaged in similar activity and in July 2012
participated in the bombing of a tour bus in the Black Sea resort of Burgas,
which killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver The New York Times
quoted the head of the three-judge panel concerning Hezbollah’s role in a plot
to murder Israeli tourists on the Mediterranean island.
“It has been
proven that Hezbollah is an organization that operates under complete secrecy,”
Judge Tasia Psara-Miltiadou said. “There is no doubt that this group has
multiple members and proceeds with various activities including military
training of its members.... The court rules that Hezbollah acts as a criminal
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.”
The foreign policy spokesman for German Chancellor
Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party in the Bundestag, Philipp
Missfelder, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the “legal verdict against
Yaacoub should now make clear to the last sceptics that Hezbollah carries out
terrorism on the European soil.”
Missfelder, who is a member of the
Bundestag and expert on foreign affairs, added that “the EU should not accept
this and is called on to list Hezbollah immediately as a terror
The European body is now discussing a ban on the
Lebanon-based group. The Cyprus verdict could play a key role in moving
recalcitrant countries like France to push for including Hezbollah on the EU
Germany has not taken an active role in pushing for an EU
According to the country’s domestic intelligence
agency, 950 Hezbollah members operate within the federal republic.
Netherlands is the only EU country to have outlawed Hezbollah. The United
Kingdom blacklisted its military wing in 2008.
“I’ve just returned from
meetings on Hezbollah with European officials, and one recurring theme was they
were all waiting to see what the court decided in Cyprus,” Dr. Matthew Levitt, a
top authority on Hezbollah and a senior fellow and director of The Washington Institute's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence told the Post
on Thursday. “Unlike the Bulgarian
case, the evidence in Cyprus – which has undergone full judicial scrutiny and
cross-examination – is a matter of public record. The public airing of evidence
presented in court makes this conviction especially compelling.”
is the author of the soon-to-be-released Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of
Lebanon’s Party of God.
“Last summer,” he continued, “Cyprus’s foreign
minister pledged that ‘should there be tangible evidence of Hezbollah engaging
in acts of terrorism, the EU would consider listing the organization.’ Now, here
we are, tangible evidence in hand: The Burgas bombers traveled through Romania
and Poland, the defendant in Cyprus through France and the Netherlands. How will
Europe respond to Hezbollah’s challenge?”