Hezbollah operative in US sentenced to 40 years in spying case shows no remorse
A Lebanese immigrant to the US who spied on Hezbollah’s behalf for over a decade showed no remorse in court after being sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Ali Kourani, 35, who was convicted on eight counts related to terrorism, maintained in his court statement that Hezbollah is a “political party” and railed against America’s “double standards,” according to the New York Post.
Lebanese Hezbollah, which Iran assisted in founding and continues to back today, has been listed as a “terrorist group” by the United States since 1995.
Assistant Attorney General John Demers said Kourani served as a Hezbollah operative, helping the organization prepare for potential future attacks against the US. The prosecutor said Kourani was the first operative of Hezbollah to be convicted and sentenced for his crimes against the US.
Kourani, who emigrated from Lebanon to the US legally in 2003 and became a naturalized citizen in 2009, lived a double life as a telephone salesman and a Hezbollah member.
US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a release that Kourani spent years conducting surveillance at federal buildings, airports including Kennedy International Airport and even daycare centers after he was recruited, trained and deployed by Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization.
Demers said Kourani identified people who could be recruited or targeted for violence and gathered information or conducted surveillance of possible terrorism targets.
Prosecutors said Kourani was recruited by the terrorist group and received training as early as age 16. When he traveled to Lebanon in 2011, he learned how to use a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, assault rifles, a submachine gun, a machine gun and a Glock pistol.
The FBI began investigating Kourani in 2013 after a suspicious traffic arrest.
In 2016, Kourani would decide to cooperate with federal agents, only after his wife left him and moved to Canada with their children, and Hezbollah began distancing itself from him the year prior, according to prosecutors.
Kourani claims he offered to assist the FBI only in return for immunity – which he was not promised and did not receive. He said in court that the FBI had violated his due process by “overreaching” and “violated all ethics” after he volunteered information about Hezbollah and was then arrested on terrorism charges.
The prosecutor Emil Bove said that Kourani’s case had huge implications for Hezbollah backer Iran, as well as public safety around the world.
“Your voice will be heard today in Lebanon. Your voice will heard in Iran, which is directing IJO operations,” Bove said, according to the New York Daily News.