This will cut off a significant source on funds.
BERLIN — In a decision that could have significant repercussions for Hezbollah’s operations in Europe, a court in Cyprus on Thursday found a man guilty of participating in a plot to attack Israeli tourists on vacation there, part of a conspiracy similar to a deadly bombing last July in Bulgaria.
The court found the man, Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, a dual Swedish-Lebanese citizen, guilty on five of the eight charges against him, including participation in a criminal organization and in the preparation of a criminal act. The three other counts were conspiracy charges, which the ruling said were already covered under the other counts. Mr. Yaacoub will be sentenced at a separate hearing. He was initially charged with several terrorism-related counts as well.
“It has been proven that Hezbollah is an organization that operates under complete secrecy,” the head of the three-judge panel that ruled on the case, Tasia Psara-Miltiadou, said Thursday in court. “There is no doubt that this group has multiple members and proceeds with various activities, including military training of its members. Therefore, the court rules that Hezbollah acts as a criminal organization.”
Mr. Yaacoub admitted in court last month that he was a member of Hezbollah, a Shiite militant group, and that he was trained in the use of weapons and sent around Europe on missions as a courier and scout for the organization. The court rejected his assertion that he had no idea why his handlers had asked him to monitor the arrival times of flights from Israel and to track the locations of Israeli tourists in Cyprus.
With his Swedish passport, Mr. Yaacoub was an ideal operative for the group, able to move within the European Union without attracting attention. He described operating in a shadowy world of code names and secret passwords, a secretive handler who wore a mask, and trips in vans with the curtains drawn so he did not know where he was going for his weapons training.
“It’s a rare opening, a rare lifting of the veil on how they operate,” Magnus Norell, a former terrorism analyst for the Swedish Secret Service who testified in the case, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. He called the plot “a textbook example of how you prepare an attack like this, pretty much a blueprint for preparing a terror attack.”
The terrorism charges that Mr. Yaacoub initially faced were dropped, in part because Hezbollah is not formally listed as a terrorist organization. As such, experts said a conviction on the other criminal charges would be easier to win.