Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Michigan Man admits role in aiding Hizballah

From the Detroit Free Press

Dearborn resident faces prison term

March 2, 2005

A 33-year-old Dearborn man pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist group.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said Mahmoud Youssef Kourani hosted meetings in his home in the 6000 block of Argyle in late 2002 where a guest speaker from Lebanon solicited donations for Hizballah, which has been designated by the United States as a Lebanese terrorist group. The meetings happened between Nov. 6 and Dec. 6, during Ramadan.

The government didn't identify the speaker at the meetings. It said the money was intended for Hizballah's orphans of martyrs program to benefit the families of those killed in Hizballah operations or by the group's enemies.

The plea came in a deal worked out by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Chadwell and Kourani's lawyer, William Swor of Detroit, neither of whom would comment.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Kourani is to be sentenced June 14 by U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland.

When Kourani was indicted in November 2003, prosecutors said he was a member, fighter, recruiter and fund-raiser for Hizballah and continued his fund-raising activities in the United States after entering the country illegally from Mexico in 2001. The original terrorism charge carried a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, upon conviction.

The government said his brother was the group's chief of military security in southern Lebanon.

Kourani has been in custody since May 2003 when he was arrested on a count of harboring an illegal immigrant. He was sentenced to 6 months in jail and was ordered deported in that case.

He's the second person in 14 months to plead guilty to terrorism charges in federal court in Detroit.

In December 2003, Hassan M. Makki, then 42, of Dearborn, was sentenced to 57 months in prison for providing more than $2,000 to Hizballah from proceeds of a North Carolina-to-Detroit cigarette smuggling scheme.

No comments: