Trial Set For Men Accused of Broadcasting Al-Manar in U.S.
Update: Javed Iqbal and Saleh Elahwal pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to providing material aid to a terrorist organization by distributing broadcasts of Al Manar on December 23 and December 30, 2008, respectively. Iqbal was sentenced to five years and nine months in prison on April 23, 2009 and Elahwal was sentenced to 17 months on June 23, 2009.
Posted: June 5, 2008
Two men accused of conspiring to broadcast Hezbollah's television channel al-Manar to U.S. customers are scheduled to face trial on terrorism charges in January 2009.
Javed Iqbal, 44 and Saleh Elahwal, 55, pleaded not guilty to 11 charges, including providing satellite services to al-Manar and providing material support to Hezbollah. They each face a maximum sentence of more than 100 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
Iqbal, a Pakistani who moved to the U.S. more than 25 years ago, was arrested in August 2006. He was initially charged with negotiating with representatives of the Beirut-based al-Manar network on behalf of his Brooklyn-based satellite programming company to air the channel in America.
Iqbal and Elahwal, who lives in New Jersey and who prosecutors say also operated the company, were indicted three months later. They were paid more than $111,000 by al-Manar between December 2005 and March 2006, according to initial court documents.
Al-Manar (Arabic for "the beacon") broadcasts Hezbollah's messages of hate and violence to an estimated daily audience of 10-15 million viewers. Founded in 1991 and funded by Iran and Muslim communities abroad, al-Manar programming is directing by Hezbollah, which also owns and operates the station.
The U.S. State Department added al-Manar to the Terrorism Exclusion List in December 2004, which effectively prohibited the broadcasting of al-Manar in the U.S. In March 2006, the U.S. Treasury Department added al-Manar to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, making it is illegal for U.S. companies or individuals to do business with or supply services to al-Manar.
Al-Manar also operates a Web site enabling viewers to watch streaming video. This streaming video is available in the U.S. through the Wa3ad ("promise" in Arabic) Web site, which is hosted by a Las Vegas-based Internet Service Provider (ISP). The Arabic language Wa3ad Web site claims to be "for the support of the resistance movement" and consists of various sections, including those entitled "Zionist affairs," "the resistance support" and "divine victory."
Authorities are likely to examine whether this ISP may also be violating American law by providing hosting services to al-Manar.