A Lebanese man with a Canadian passport pleaded guilty on Monday to terror charges linked to 8.2 tonnes of potential bomb-making material found in his Cyprus home, authorities said.
Hussein Bassam Abdallah, 26, appeared before the criminal court in the southern coastal town of Larnaca under tight security. He will be sentenced later on Monday.
He pleaded guilty to charges under the terror act of participation in and supporting a terrorist organisation, plus illegal possession and transfer of explosive materials and belonging to a criminal organisation.
The charges against him cover the period 2012 until May 27, 2015.
Authorities said the accused has links with the military wing of Lebanon’s Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah.
Reportedly, the case went to trial much quicker than normal because Nicosia wants to underline the message that Cyprus is tough on terrorism.
The official Cyprus News Agency said the suspect has confessed to being a member of Hezbollah but did not divulge what the nitrate was for or what the possible targets might have been.
Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said during a visit to Israel earlier this month that the authorities believed they had thwarted a possible attack on Israeli targets.
Police said the man arrived on the island on May 21 for what he described as a holiday. He was arrested in a Larnaca suburb on May 27 following a surveillance operation.
Media reports say the authorities have not ruled out that the suspect was planning an attack on Israeli interests on the island, which attracts thousands of tourists from nearby Israel every year. There is also an Israeli embassy in the capital Nicosia.
Police are looking for the landlord of the house in which the material was found, after the suspect claimed the ammonium nitrate was not his.
Authorities discovered huge amounts of the fertiliser that can be used to make explosives, stashed in the basement of the man’s temporary residence in Larnaca. The man also had nearly €10,000 in his possession when caught.
Ammonium nitrate is a fertiliser that when mixed with other substances can be used to make explosives.
Investigative sources say the seizure is one of the biggest of illegal ammonium nitrate anywhere in the world.
Cyprus is not known for its militant activity despite its proximity to the Middle East and a poor security reputation in the late 1970s and 1980s.
The last major incident was a botched bomb attack on the Israeli embassy in 1988, in which three people died.
In 2013, a Cypriot court convicted a Lebanon-born Swedish man who admitted he was a Hezbollah member. He received a four-year jail term after being found guilty of targeting Israelis on the island.
the sun daily/ AFP
6 years in jail
Cyprus on Monday sentenced to six years in jail Hussein Bassam Abdallah who pleaded guilty to terror charges linked to 8.2 tons of potential bomb-making material found in his home.
Judicial authorities confirmed that at Abdallah was a member of Hezbollah’s military wing.
In passing sentence judge Nicolaos Santis took into consideration the accused’s remorse for what he did and his full cooperation with the authorities.
Santis insisted that Abdallah “played the role assigned to him within the broader design of things, so that eventually Hezbollah would be able to harm, through terrorist attacks, Israeli interests in Cyprus”.
The charges against Abdallah covered the period 2012 until May 27, 2015, during which time the material was stockpiled in Cyprus.
Prosecution lawyer Polina Efthivoulou said Abdallah had admitted to being a member of Hezbollah’s military wing and sent to Cyprus to ensure the ammonium nitrate was safely kept.
In 2013, a Cypriot court also sentenced a Lebanon-born Swedish man who admitted he was a Hezbollah member, to four years in jail after he was found guilty of targeting Israelis on the island.
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