Hezbollah spy cell in Egypt found guilty of terror plots
A court convicted 26 members of a Hezbollah spy cell guilty of plotting terror attacks in Egypt. Analysts say the Lebanese militant group crossed a political red line by using Egypt as a base to send weapons to Gaza.
An Egyptian court Wednesday convicted 26 men of spying for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and planning terrorist attacks in Egypt, handing down prison terms ranging from 25 years to six months.Skip to next paragraph
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The trial — commonly referred to as the "Hezbollah cell trial" — involved two Lebanese, five Palestinians, a Sudanese, and 18 Egyptians. It was held in the heavily guarded State Security Emergency court whose verdict can be reversed only by a presidential pardon.
The charges against the group included: plotting attacks against tourists; targeting vessels crossing the Suez Canal; spying; training agents; building explosive belts and devices; and smuggling weapons to the Islamist Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
Attorneys for the defendants said the charges were politically motivated.
Three of the accused, including the group's Lebanese leader Mohammed Qiblan, received life sentences in absentia.
Presiding Judge Adel Abdelsalam Gomaa said the investigations showed the group had been planning operations with the aim of "hurting Egypt's economy, shredding the bonds between its people and spreading chaos," he read from the charges list.
"God is great. God will avenge us," the defendants roared from the dock, rattling at the prisoners' cage and climbing on it as soon as the judge read the verdict in a packed Cairo courtroom.
Outside the courthouse, family members wept on hearing the prison sentences, slapping their faces and screaming out their relatives' names.
"This is an oppressive government, they've already been tortured and humiliated for the past two years," said Sherin Ali, 36. Her husband Mohammed Shalabi, a fisherman, was given 10 years in prison. "His kids have been made homeless, there is not a penny at home," she sobbed.
In April 2009, Egypt's security apparatus said it had uncovered a cell belonging to Hezbollah and accused its members of planning to disrupt the country's safety and stability.
Hezbollah leader's denials
At the time, Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, admitted he'd sent one of the defendants, Mohamed Mansour, also known as Samy Shehab, to facilitate delivery of weapons into the Palestinian-inhabited Gaza Strip. Nasrallah, as well as the defendants, denied they had planned any attacks against Egypt.