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Cyprus court gives Hezbollah man 4 years over 'Israel plot'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A Cyprus court sentenced a self-confessed member of Lebanon's Hezbollah group on Thursday to four years in jail after he was convicted of involvement in a plot to attack Israeli interests on the island.

The official Cyprus News Agency said the criminal court in the south coast city of Limassol sentenced Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, a dual Lebanese and Swedish citizen, to four years minus time already served in prison since last July.

He was was found guilty on March 22 on five counts -- including participating in a criminal organisation, taking part in a criminal act and money laundering.

Yaacoub, 24, told the court last month that he had collected information on Israeli tourists visiting the island, but denied plotting to attack them.

He said he had been asked to log information on Israeli flight arrivals in Cyprus and note down the number plates of buses carrying tourists from the Jewish state.

Yaacoub said he was unaware what the information was for and was arrested in July last year before he could communicate the information to a handler, whom he did not know, in Lebanon.

On Thursday he made no outward show of emotion after the sentence was passed, and before being led out of the courtroom under armed guard.

"There is no doubt that these are serious offences because by committing them, at the very least it potentially jeopardised the safety of Israeli citizens and targets on the territory of the Cyprus Republic," the court ruled.

"Even if the targets were not carried out, it still harms the security of citizens and the legal system, whose guardian is the court," it added.

Before passing sentence the court did take into consideration the fact that Yaacoub had cooperated with police and that he had been recruited by the militant Shiite group at the age of 19.

In mitigation, his defence lawyer said Yaacoub did not carry out any violent act and has a clean criminal record. He also did not transport or carry guns or explosives.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130328/cyprus-court-gives-hezbollah-man-4-years-over-israel-plot