US Justice Department appeals early release of Hezbollah financier

Kassim Tajideen has been granted compassionate release due to the threat of coronavirus.

Hezbollah fighters put Lebanese and Hezbollah flags at Juroud Arsal, Syria-Lebanon border (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hezbollah fighters put Lebanese and Hezbollah flags at Juroud Arsal, Syria-Lebanon border
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The United States' Department of Justice have appealed the early release on compassionate grounds of a Hezbollah financier, arguing that his sentence was imposed to reflect the seriousness of his crime, and should be upheld.
Kassim Tajideen, 65, is due to be repatriated to Lebanon in July, after Washington Federal District Court Judge Reggie Walton granted compassionate release, ruling that Tajideen's age and "serious health conditions" left him at particular risk of contracting coronavirus within the prison system.
Tajideen was sentenced in 2019 to serve a five-year sentence and forfeited $50 million after he pled guilty to money-laundering. A wealthy businessman before his incarceration, Tajideen is said to have handed tens of millions of dollars to Hezbollah, in addition to giving the group other support. In 2009, the United States deemed him a “specially designated global terrorist.”
The Justice Department has therefore filed an appeal against his release, arguing that his health has not deteriorated, and that there was no immediate risk to Tajideen of contracting COVID-19 within the medium-security prison in which he was being held.
“The need for the sentence imposed to reflect the seriousness of the offense and to promote deterrence by others and respect for U.S. laws around the world remains,” the Justice Department said in its brief to the court, according to NBC News.
Of 1,214 inmates in the facility in Cumberland, Maryland in which Tajideen was serving his sentence, six tested positive, as did two members of staff. However, all have since recovered and there have been no new cases at the prison, court documents testified.
The appeal has drawn support from counter-terrorism experts, who said the seriousness of Tajideen's crimes ought to be reflected in the time served.
The court had committed “a miscarriage of justice in letting a prominent financier of the premier global terror group, which has American blood on its hands, out of jail before serving out his sentence,” Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told NBC.
And Josh Lipowsky, a senior research analyst at the Counter Extremism Project, warned of the consequences for other cases if Tajideen is released early.
“This release risks setting a precedent for the early release of designated terrorists. And we have to fully consider the risks that such early releases pose and be concerned what happens to these people after their release,” Lipowsky said.
Tajideen's initial request for early release, filed with the prison, was turned down by the warden, prompting Tajideen to file the request with the federal district court in Washington, DC. Justice Department arguments at the May hearing, that Tajideen was of reasonable health for a man of his age, and that there was no coronavirus in the prison he was held in, were rejected by Walton.
Tajideen suffers from hypertension but his condition has not worsened.
Following the ruling that he may be released, Tajideen was removed from the prison following a two-week quarantine for coronavirus, and moved to a county detention center where he is currently still being held, awaiting deportation.
There has been speculation that his release has been granted in response to the release by Lebanon of US citizen Amer al-Farkoury, a naturalized US citizen who was accused of torturing prisoners while serving in the South Lebanon Army. But one of Tajideen's lawyers, William Taylor, has denied that his client was part of a prisoner exchange deal.
“There absolutely no truth to rumors that US nationals abroad are to be released in connection with Mr. Tajideen’s release,” he told NBC in an email.