News / Middle East

Egypt Convicts 26 Men on Terror Charges

Accused said to belong Hezbollah cell plotting attacks on tourist and commercial sites

Elizabeth Arrott

An Egyptian court has sentenced 26 men to prison terms ranging from six months to life on charges of plotting attacks on tourist and commercial sites.  The men were accused of belonging to a cell of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

The prisoners maintained their innocence throughout the trial, saying they were just trying to help Hamas, the Hezbollah ally in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, across the Egyptian border.

But prosecutors argued successfully that the men had spied on ships in the Suez Canal and on tourist sites, with the aim of launching strikes against them.  Those convicted include Egyptian, Palestinian, Lebanese and Sudanese citizens.  Four were tried in absentia and remain at large.

When the defendants were arrested one year ago, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah conceded he had sent an operative to organize a small cell in Egypt, but had denied there were plans for attacks inside the country.

Defense lawyer Mohamed Hassan said after the sentencing Wednesday that the verdict was harsh and did not reflect the accusation of spying for a foreign organization.  He said there was no proof of any terrorist attacks.

Expectation in Egypt had been high that the sentences might have been harsher, with at least some of the defendants sentenced to death, given the seriousness of the charges and the political atmosphere surrounding them.  The alleged targets of the plots - tourism and the canal - are major revenue earners.  Egypt also has a history of troubled relations with Hezbollah and its backers, Syria and Iran.

Amr Hamzawi, a senior associate with the Carnegie Middle East Center in Lebanon, said there did not seem to be any direct political interference in the trial.  But, he added, the verdicts "can be interpreted politically as a sign of moderation on the Egyptian side and opening the doors for an improvement in the Egyptian-Syrian relationship."  Hamzawi noted that, in the past week, there has been mediation between the two by Saudia Arabia and the Arab League.

Syria and Iran lead much of the Middle East in blaming Egypt for largely closing its border with Gaza, which is under an Israeli blockade.  Hamzawi argued that Egypt has "not done a good job so far to explain to the wider Arab audience why does it have to stick to binding international treaties and, secondly, what is Egypt doing to mend it, the suffering in Gaza."

He added that "there is no clear platform by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry or Egyptian diplomacy on how to end the siege in Gaza, and everyone is acting as if it has come to be a normality of life in the Middle East."

As the easiest transit point for the illegal traffic of arms and goods through tunnels into Gaza, Egypt has had to counter increasing crime in its Sinai Peninsula.  It is now building its own wall, an underground barrier, that has been greeted with a new outcry by others in the Arab world.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More