Egypt sentences 26 Hezbollah men for spying, plotting attacks
An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced 26 suspected Hezbollah members to jail with three of them being awarded life in prison on charges of spying for the Lebanese militant group and plotting attacks in Egypt.
Cairo: An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced 26 suspected Hezbollah members to jail with three of them being awarded life in prison on charges of spying for the Lebanese militant group and plotting attacks in Egypt.
The rest of the 26-member group - including 18 Egyptians, five Palestinians, one Sudanese and two Lebanese nationals - were sentenced between six months and 15 years in prison by the Emergency Higher State Security Criminal Court.
Four of the defendants, including the group`s Lebanese leader Mohammad Qiblan, were tried in absentia in the trial which started in August 2009.
The courtroom erupted with cries of shock at the sentences and chanting when Judge Adel Abdelsalam Gomaa pronounced the verdicts.
The defendants were found guilty of plotting attacks against vital Egyptian sectors, such as tourism and the Suez Canal, and sending operatives and explosives to Gaza to aid militants there.
This is the first time Egypt has prosecuted suspected Hezbollah members, who were arrested in November 2008.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has admitted to sending a senior commander, identified by his code name Sami Shihab, to supervise weapons shipments to Hamas in Gaza, but he has denied seeking to undermine Egypt`s security.
The cell and its planned plots are a further block in the relation between Egypt and Iran which backed Hezbollah. Iran and some other countries and movements have been blaming Egypt for its trade and diplomatic relations with Israel despite the Gaza siege that has been in place for almost three years.
Since the discovery of the Hezbollah cell, Egypt has attempted to bring down all the underground tunnels linking it to Gaza and which are used to smuggle in goods, arms and sometimes people.