Life sentence for Lebanese convicted in U.S. for aiding Hizbullah
Mohamad Hammoud, one of two Lebanese brothers convicted in Charlotte of providing aid to Hizbullah, on Friday was handed what amounts to a life sentence, the Charlotte Observer reported.
U.S. District Judge Graham Mullen sentenced Hammoud, 29, to 155 years in prison, the maximum punishment.
Hammoud was the first person tried in the United States under a 1996 federal law banning material support to terrorist organizations.
He was convicted in June by a federal jury in Charlotte of conspiring to provide material support to Hizbullah, the Lebanese resistance movement the United States considers a "terrorist organization."
Authorities said Hammoud was the leader of a Hizbullah support cell in Charlotte. "It is not the kind of sentence anybody takes any pleasure in giving," Mullen said. "I do so because I believe it is required by law."
Chris Swecker, who heads the FBI in North Carolina, said evidence was presented that Hammoud was a member of Hizbullah and knew what the Lebanese group was about.
Hammoud's lawyer said his client will appeal. Also scheduled to be sentenced is Hammoud's 38-year-old brother, Shawqi Hammoud.
Both brothers had been accused of being part of a Hizbullah support cell in Charlotte that smuggled millions of dollars worth of cigarettes from North Carolina to Michigan and sent some of the proceeds to Lebanon to help finance Hizbullah's military operations.
Mohamad Hammoud told jurors that he sympathized with Hizbullah and its fight to drive Israel from his homeland. But he denied that a Hizbullah cell operated out of his home in Charlotte or that he raised money for Hizbullah.
Shawqi Hammoud was convicted of a racketeering conspiracy that accused him of being a member of the Hizbullah cell in Charlotte. (Albawaba.com)
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