El Al airplanes sit on the runway 370 (R).
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters)
BERLIN – A criminal court in Limassol, Cyprus, on Thursday sentenced Hossam
Taleb Yaacoub to four years in prison for plotting to kill Israeli tourists on
The Jerusalem Post has learned that Yaacoub has 10 days to
appeal his conviction. He admitted his membership in Hezbollah and that
he watched Israeli flights land in Cyprus and documented the movements of
Israelis and the locations they stayed at.
“There is no doubt these are
serious crimes which could have potentially endangered Israeli citizens and
targets in the republic,” the three-member court said during
The Cypriot court convicted Yaacoub on five counts of
participating in a criminal organization and agreeing to commit a
Yaacoub’s conviction may add greater urgency to European Union
talks on whether to include Hezbollah in its terror list. EU countries such as
Austria and Germany have including Hezbollah on its terror list because of
insufficient legal evidence. The Cyprus conviction represents the first
conviction of a Hezbollah member in a European court.
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
He was convicted of five out of eight criminal
Yaacoub was arrested two weeks before an alleged Iran- Hezbollah
operation blew up an Israeli tour bus in Bulgaria in July 2012
, killing five
Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver. An additional 32 Israelis were
Yaacoub pleaded not guilty.
He admitted he was a member
of Hezbollah, saying he would carry out innocent errands for a handler
code-named Ayman, whom he could not fully identify because he always wore a
Yaacoub’s jail term will run concurrently with his period in
custody since July.
Meanwhile, two alleged Hezbollah operatives who
participated in the Bulgaria bombing are believed to be in Lebanon. Both used
European locations to carry out their terror attack, including traveling through
Poland and Romania.
Tsvetan Tsvetanov, then- Bulgarian interior minister,
announced in February that Hezbollah operatives had been responsible for the
Burgas attack. Tsvetanov said the two suspected 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
Bulgaria’s interim Prime Minister, Marin Raikov, said Bulgaria
will “provide needed evidence” to place Hezbollah on EU’s terror
But many European governments are cautious about imposing
sanctions on Hezbollah, arguing it could fuel tensions in the Middle
Raikov has said Bulgaria will not initiate the EU procedure for
Any other EU government could request such a
move, but none has yet done so.
Some EU countries were “not sufficiently
convinced” by Bulgaria’s evidence, Raikov said in Brussels on
“For Bulgaria, it is of key importance to have a common
position, to have a consensus on this [within the EU],” he told reporters during
a visit to NATO headquarters.
“We will continue the
investigation. We will continue to work on this very seriously, very
actively. We will provide the needed evidence,” he said.
“But it’s not
for Bulgaria to initiate the technical procedure for the listing [of Hezbollah].
I think that our partners will be able to do this, once they reach a certain
level of consensus on this issue,” he said.
Bulgaria has not given a
reason for not requesting an EU listing of Hezbollah. But Bulgarian opposition
groups have argued the country could open itself up to more attacks, if it takes
the lead in blacklisting Hezbollah.
Hezbollah has dismissed Bulgaria’s
accusations and accused Israel of waging a smear campaign against
Israel and the United Sates blamed the attack in Burgas on Iran and
Hezbollah. Iran has denied responsibility and accused Israel of plotting and
carrying out the bus bombing.
Lebanese prime minister Najib Mikati
resigned last week after a cabinet dispute with Hezbollah, a dominant force in
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said earlier
this month that Britain would be in favor of Hezbollah’s military wing being
blacklisted at the European level, which would result in European governments
and companies being required to cease any financial dealings with groups on the
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.Reuters contributed to this report.