Muslim man in Florida gets 5 year sentence for helping Hezbollah - will be deported to Lebanon
May 28, 2006
Lebanese man gets 5-year sentence for helping Hezbollah
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A federal judge sentenced a Lebanese man to the maximum five years in prison for conspiring to help the group Hezbollah, turning aside his plea for mercy "if not for me, then for my kids."
U.S. District Judge Harvey Schlesinger imposed the maximum sentence, plus five years' probation, Thursday for Fadl Mohammad Maatouk.
Maatouk, who came to the United States on a temporary visa in 1999, pleaded guilty in January to conspiring to help Hezbollah, which is on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations.
He admitted that in a 2003 telephone call with his brother, he agreed to lend a machine gun to a Hezbollah member, who planned to use it to protect one of the group's leaders in southern Lebanon. He also said he gave Hezbollah members camouflage fatigues while visiting Lebanon in 2003.
Maatouk was arrested in March 2005 on unrelated charges of selling drug paraphernalia and sending money made from criminal activity to Lebanon.
He told the judge Thursday that he had not meant to break any laws.
Maatouk's attorney, Hank Coxe, cited Maatouk's cooperation with the government in asking Schlesinger to allow him to be deported right away, so that his wife and two children could then join him in Lebanon.
"It's really unfortunate because he isn't a member of Hezbollah, never had been and in no way supports terrorism of any kind," Coxe said after the hearing.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Dale Campion argued the five-year sentence was appropriate because the government could have brought more serious charges against him.
The U.S. government blames Hezbollah for numerous attacks since the 1980s, including the bombings of a U.S. Marine barracks and U.S. Embassy in Beirut. The group also been accused of striking the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish cultural center in separate bombings in Argentina in the early 1990s. Hezbollah has denied the claims.