The United States is determined to counter Hezbollah’s terrorist activities, a State Department spokesperson said Monday.
“Iranian-backed Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that continues to pose a significant threat to the United States and its international partners,” the spokesperson told Al Arabiya English on Monday.
Reports circulated in recent days that Washington decided to release a Lebanese businessman who is designated as am important financial supporter to Hezbollah as part of a goodwill gesture.
Lebanon freed a Lebanese-American citizen in March after being arrested upon arrival in Lebanon last year for his work with an Israeli-backed militia in southern Lebanon until 2000.
But on Monday, the State Department said these reports that Kassim Tajideen’s release from a US prison was part of a backroom deal were false.
“This Administration has made clear its determination to counter Hezbollah’s terrorist and illicit activities,” the spokesperson said.
Tajideen was arrested in Morocco in 2017, following an international arrest warrant and then extradited to the US. He later pleaded guilty to charges related to evading sanctions against him.
Last week, a statement released by his family said that he would return home to Lebanon in the “near future.” The family's statement said that US Judge Reggie Walton agreed on May 27 to release Tajideen on compassionate grounds because of the risks of coronavirus on his life should he remain in prison.
The Tajideen family thanked the Lebanese and US authorities for facilitating his return home.
Prosecutors were given one month to appeal the decision, but an authoritative source with knowledge of the matter previously told Al Arabiya English that no appeal would be filed.
However, according to the State Department spokesperson, “the US government opposed Tajideen’s motion for compassionate release, but in the end, the court ruled in his favor.”
Tajideen has since been handed over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “for purposes of removal from the United States,” the spokesperson revealed.
But the fact that Tajideen is being released early due to health concerns and removed from the US “does not diminish the severity of his crime,” the spokesperson said.
Tajideen was designated by the Department of Treasury in 2009 as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist and he remains designated. His assets remain blocked, and US persons are still prohibited from engaging in any transactions with him.
The State Department spokesperson hit out at Hezbollah for also threatening Lebanon’s security, stability and sovereignty. “It is more concerned with its own interests and those of its patron Iran, than what is best for the Lebanese people.”