Providing Satellite Link to Hezbollah TV channel Gets NY Man 6 Year Jail sentence

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Javed Iqbal, a local satellite TV entrepreneur, provided consumers in the NY area with access to over 180 global TV channels including porn, Christian bible shows, wrestling and Al Manar, a TV propaganda outlet for Hezbollah. This last, according to a federal district court, makes him a material supporter of terrorism.

The NY Times reports

Staten Island businessman was sentenced Thursday to nearly six years in prison for assisting terrorists by providing satellite television services to Hezbollah's television station, Al Manar.

The businessman, Javed Iqbal, 45, said in a statement read by his lawyer in Federal District Court in Manhattan that he was "deeply sorry" for what he called a mistake that hurt him "financially, emotionally and physically."

"I have not harmed anyone in my whole life," he said in the statement to Judge Richard M. Berman, who sentenced him to 69 months.

Mr. Iqbal, who emigrated to the United States from Pakistan as a teenager, ran his business from a Brooklyn storefront and the garage of his home in Mariners Harbor, Staten Island, which had satellite dishes in the backyard. The United States Treasury Department has designated Al Manar -- "the beacon" in Arabic -- a global terrorist entity.

Mr. Iqbal's lawyer, Joshua L. Dratel, had earlier argued that prosecution of his client for providing satellite TV services violated his First Amendment rights, but Judge Berman rejected that view, ruling that the prosecution was based not on the content of speech but on conduct -- allegations that he provided material support to a foreign terrorist group.

Although Mr. Iqbal faced up to 15 years in prison, he and the government agreed in a plea deal that a term of about five to six and a half years would be reasonable. He pleaded guilty to a single count in December.

In court, Mr. Dratel asked for the lowest end of that range, saying that his client's conduct was not the product of ideological support for Hezbollah and was a "discrete and narrow aspect of an otherwise legitimate" business.

He said Mr. Iqbal's business had offered a variety of programming, including Christian broadcasting and adult entertainment, which he said was "180 degrees from Islamic fundamentalism."

But a federal prosecutor, Eric Snyder, disagreed, calling Hezbollah a "sophisticated terrorist organization in all respects," which had used its 24-hour channel to recruit members and suicide bombers and to raise money for weapons and operations.

"He was, in a very real sense, Hezbollah's man in New York City," Mr. Snyder said.

The United States has designated Hezbollah a foreign terrorist organization.

"He did all this," Mr. Snyder said, "to bring the Hezbollah operations to our shores, to allow Hezbollah to have their operations here in New York City. That's a very dangerous thing. That's what this crime is about."

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