New York Resident Convicted of Spying for Hezbollah

Lebanese-born Ali Kourani, 34, was recruited, trained, and deployed by the militant movement to 'plan and execute acts of terrorism in the United States,' prosecutor says

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File photo: Hezbollah scouts cheer as they listen to a speech of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, via a video link in southern Beirut, Lebanon, April 22, 2019.
File photo: Hezbollah scouts cheer as they listen to a speech of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, via a video link in southern Beirut, Lebanon, April 22, 2019.Credit: ussein Malla / AP

A New York resident was convicted Thursday of providing material support to Hezbollah by seeking targets in New York City for terrorist attacks.

A jury returned its verdict against Ali Kourani in Manhattan federal court after a weeklong trial. Kourani, 34, could face life in prison at a sentencing scheduled for September 27.

>> Analysis: Hezbollah caught between desire to strengthen Iran and need to reinforce its domestic power

His lawyer, Alexei Schacht, said he'll appeal the verdict on the grounds that statements his client made to the FBI were made involuntarily in response to false promises of confidentiality.

"Given the fact the judge allowed in the statements, we were not surprised at the verdict," he said.

The Bronx man has been held without bail since his June 2017 arrest on charges he sought to support Hezbollah.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Kourani surveilled terrorism targets in New York City, including Kennedy International Airport and law enforcement facilities including the building housing the FBI.

"Ali Kourani was recruited, trained, and deployed by Hezbollah's Islamic Jihad Organization to plan and execute acts of terrorism in the United States. Kourani's chilling mission was to help procure weapons and gather intelligence about potential targets in the U.S. for future Hezbollah terrorist attacks," Berman said in a release.

Authorities said the Lebanon-born Kourani received sophisticated military training overseas at least twice, including in 2000 at age 16. They said he was trained in the use of a rocket propelled grenade.

Authorities said he came to the U.S. legally in 2003, eventually earning a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering in 2009 and a master's degree in business administration in 2013.

Prosecutors said Kourani was recruited by the terrorist organization after a residence belonging to his family was destroyed during the 2006 Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah.

He was also convicted of other terrorism, sanctions, and immigration offenses.

Hezbollah has been designated by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization.

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