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Satilite television provider convicted for supporting Al-Manar Televsion
by New York Times
Sunday Dec 28th, 2008 12:41 PM
A Guilty Plea in Providing Satellite TV for Hezbollah
Published: December 23, 2008
A Staten Island businessman pleaded guilty on Tuesday in Manhattan to a single federal count of assisting terrorists by providing satellite television services to Hezbollah’s television station, Al Manar.
The plea by the defendant, Javed Iqbal, 45, came weeks before he was to be tried in a case that had received wide attention after defense lawyers argued that the prosecution of Mr. Iqbal and a co-defendant for providing satellite TV services violated their First Amendment rights.

But Judge Richard M. Berman of United States District Court rejected that view last year, ruling that the prosecution was based not on the content of speech but on conduct — allegations that the men provided material support to a foreign terrorist group.

In court on Tuesday, Mr. Iqbal admitted that his company, HDTV Ltd., received money for providing television services to Al Manar — “the beacon” in Arabic — which the United States Treasury Department has designated a global terrorist entity.

Prosecutors have said Hezbollah operated Al Manar in Lebanon as a way to raise money and recruit volunteers for attacks.

“Are you aware of Al Manar’s relationship to Hezbollah?” Judge Berman asked.

“Yes,” Mr. Iqbal said.

The judge asked whether Mr. Iqbal knew that Hezbollah had been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States.

“Yes,” Mr. Iqbal repeated.

Mr. Iqbal, who was born in Pakistan and came to the United States as a teenager, was originally indicted on 11 counts, including providing material support to a terrorist organization, conspiracy and other charges.

The office of Lev L. Dassin, the acting United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, has agreed to dismiss the other charges as part of the plea.

Judge Berman told Mr. Iqbal that on the count of providing material support, he could face up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced on March 24.

Mr. Iqbal’s plea deal says both sides have agreed that a sentence of about 5 to 6 ½ years would be reasonable.

Judge Berman agreed to allow Mr. Iqbal to remain free through the holidays after a prosecutor, David S. Leibowitz, said the government did not object as long as Mr. Iqbal was sent to prison soon afterward. . The judge said he would review the matter at a hearing in early January.

After the plea, neither Mr. Iqbal nor his lawyer, Aaron Mysliwiec, would comment.

The co-defendant, Saleh Elahwal, Mr. Iqbal’s business associate, still faces trial.

Mr. Iqbal, who was arrested in 2006, ran his satellite programming operation from a Brooklyn storefront and out of the garage of his modest home in Mariners Harbor, Staten Island, which had satellite dishes in the backyard.

In seeking to have the indictment dismissed, defense lawyers said in court papers that “core First Amendment values — speech and the right to publish news and information,” were at stake in the case.

The Hezbollah television station “broadcasts their ideas,” one lawyer, Joshua L. Dratel, argued in court last year.

“That’s why this particular prosecution cannot survive First Amendment scrutiny,” he said.

But prosecutors told the judge that the First Amendment did not protect the defendants’ activities. They said the indictment had been carefully drafted to emphasize that the subject of the prosecution was the defendants’ conduct in their business relationship with Hezbollah and Al Manar, without reference to the station’s content.

Judge Berman agreed in his 2007 ruling. “I don’t think the case is about content,” he said. “I don’t think it’s about protected speech or advocacy. I don’t think it’s about defendants’ right to say what they wish, to write what they wish, to publish what they wish or even to broadcast what they wish.”

Rather, he said, the case was about “whether the defendants ran afoul of legitimate laws designed to help protect against terrorism — for example, by providing aid to terrorist organizations — and that is also a fundamental government concern.”
by New York Times
Sunday Dec 28th, 2008 12:44 PM
The Staten Island home of Javed Iqbal, a Brooklyn businessman, has eight satellite dishes in the backyard. He was arraigned Thursday and held in $250,000 bail.

Published: August 25, 2006
For several years, Javed Iqbal has operated a small company from a Brooklyn storefront and out of the garage at his Staten Island home that provides satellite programming for households, including sermons from Christian evangelists seeking worldwide exposure.

Mr. Iqbal’s home, a modest two-story stone and brick house on Van Name Avenue in Mariners Harbor, stands out because among the children’s toys in the backyard were eight satellite dishes.

But this week, the budding entrepreneur’s house and storefront were raided by federal agents, and Mr. Iqbal was charged with providing customers services that included satellite broadcasts of a television station controlled by Hezbollah — a violation of federal law.

Yesterday, Mr. Iqbal was arraigned in Federal District Court in Manhattan and was ordered held in $250,000 bail. The Hezbollah station, Al Manar — or “the beacon” in Arabic — was designated a global terrorist entity by the United States Treasury Department in March of this year.

Hezbollah was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in 1997.

“The charge lurking in the background is material support for terrorism,” Stephen A. Miller, an assistant United States attorney, told United States Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein. He said Mr. Iqbal, 42, was a flight risk because he has family in England and Pakistan. “We think there is a strong incentive for him to run,” Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Iqbal’s lawyer, Mustapha Ndanusa, said his client, who came to the United States from Pakistan, is a compassionate man, and at one point offered shelter in his house to a homeless woman.

"He has been very generous in the community," Mr. Ndanusa said outside court. "He’s a fun-loving guy."

Another spokesman for Mr. Iqbal called the government’s charges ridiculous. "It’s like the government of Iran saying we’re going to ban The New York Times because we think of it as a terrorist outfit," the spokesman, Farhan Memon, said before the hearing. “Or China trying to ban CNN.”

Civil libertarians also expressed alarm.

“It appears that the statute under which Mr. Iqbal is being prosecuted includes a First Amendment exemption that prevents the government from punishing people for importing news communications,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “Such an exemption is constitutionally necessary, and the fact that the government is proceeding with the prosecution in spite of it raises serious questions about how free our marketplace of idea is.”

Court papers filed by the government to obtain a warrant to search Mr. Iqbal’s business and home suggested that the authorities learned that certain high-definition global transmission systems were providing access to Al Manar broadcasts in the United States. They got their information from Mark Dubowitz, who heads a Washington-based policy group that has monitored Al Manar — through a project called the Coalition Against Terrorist Media — and campaigned for its removal from worldwide broadcasting.

Mr. Dubowitz said in a telephone interview that Al Manar’s programming includes “very explicit calls for violence,” including ones that promote suicide bombing against American troops in Iraq and “death to America.”

He said that some broadcasts, which he characterized as racist and anti-Semitic, glorify suicide bombings and suicide bombers themselves as martyrs and that children’s programming encourages youngsters to “join the jihad and give their lives for the cause.”

The programming, he said, is sophisticated and diverse, ranging from soap operas and dramas, produced in Syria and Iran, to what he called “MTV-like” music videos. A 28-part series that was broadcast over Ramadan and based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion included a dramatization that depicted what he said looked like an Orthodox Jew slitting the throat of a Christian child and draining the child’s blood to make food for Passover.

According to the government documents, agents flew a helicopter over Mr. Iqbal’s home, then sent a confidential informant to the shop to buy a satellite package from Mr. Iqbal. The informant said that Mr. Iqbal had told him that the station was legal. Mr. Iqbal, according to the government, pressed the informant to buy a package with Al Manar instead of another service.

Mr. Iqbal’s family members declined comment yesterday. Neighbors said that the family had lived there for about five years. A sign attached to a chain-link fence along the driveway announces the business, “HDTV-LTD,” and advertises “TX/RX Earthstation and video, audio data, IP security.”

Melinda Edwards, who lives across the street, said Mr. Iqbal would use his snow blower to clear her driveway after winter storms.

“He seemed nice,’’ she said. “He seemed like everyone else.” Like many others in the neighborhood, Ms. Edwards said she noticed the large number of satellite dishes — some of which can be seen from across the street — and asked him about them a while back.

“I said, ‘You got more satellite dishes than anyone I’ve ever seen,’” Ms. Edwards said.

She said that Mr. Iqbal told her that the satellites were for his business.

Roja Heydarpour and John Holl contributed reporting for this article.
by New York Times
Sunday Dec 28th, 2008 12:48 PM
The Staten Island home of the defendant, Javed Iqbal, was visited by a federal pretrial worker.

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Published: August 26, 2006
Federal prosecutors who charged a man on Thursday with providing Hezbollah television access in New York made unusual use of a law more often employed to bar financial contributions to terrorist groups, legal experts said yesterday.

The broadly defined statute, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, is also used frequently to block the importation of goods and services that would directly support terrorist operations.

The law, which went into effect in 1977, was meant to put legal teeth in international trade embargoes with other nations, but once it was amended by the Patriot Act after 9/11, the government began to use it far more frequently against particular groups and individuals.

The use of the law, however, to focus on television broadcasts seemed to fall under an exemption laid out in a 1988 amendment to the act, several experts said, and it raised concerns among civil libertarians and some constitutional scholars about limiting the free marketplace of ideas.

The exemption covers publications, films, posters, phonograph records, photographs, microfilms, microfiche, tapes, compact discs, CD-ROM’s, art works and newswire feeds.

“One person’s news is another’s propaganda,” said Rod Smolla, the dean of the University of Richmond Law School and a First Amendment expert. “It runs counter to all of our First Amendment traditions to ban the free flow of news and information across borders, yet at the same time all nations have historically reserved the right to ban the importation of propaganda from a hostile nation.”

Professor Smolla also said that so far as he knew, this was the first use of the law to block information, as such.

The defendant, Javed Iqbal, a Pakistani who, according to his lawyer, has been in this country for more than 20 years, was charged with conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, by offering to provide the Hezbollah station, Al Manar, to a confidential informant.

Al Manar — the Beacon, in Arabic — was designated a global terrorist entity by the Treasury Department in March; Hezbollah itself was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in 1997.

Bail for Mr. Iqbal was set at $250,000 on Thursday by Gabriel W. Gorenstein, a federal magistrate judge, and Mr. Iqbal’s lawyer, Mustapha Ndanusa, said he hoped to post a bond on Monday.

A spokeswoman for Michael J. Garcia, the United States attorney in Manhattan whose office filed the case, declined to comment yesterday.

A Justice Department official in Washington could not provide figures for the number of cases brought under the law nor say whether any others had focused on the dissemination of satellite broadcasts or information. The official did not disagree with a characterization of the use of the law in this case as unusual.

Critics took a far harsher view. David D. Cole, a Georgetown University law professor who frequently criticizes the Justice Department and is challenging several aspects of the act in federal court in California, said the case against Mr. Iqbal combined what he called tactics of the McCarthy era — punishment of speech, and guilt by association.

“Mr. Iqbal is being penalized for doing nothing more than facilitating speech, and is being punished not because the speech itself is harmful, but because it is associated with Hezbollah,” he said.

Prosecutors have suggested that they may file more serious charges of material support for terrorism; it is not known whether they have more damaging evidence against Mr. Iqbal that they have not disclosed.

Mr. Iqbal’s lawyer seemed dismissive of the charges, nonetheless. “I’m not even sure really how to characterize the case,” he said. “I was a little bit dumbfounded just reading the complaint itself.”

The investigation into the case began in February when a confidential informant told the authorities that Mr. Iqbal was selling access to Al Manar, before the station was designated as a terrorist entity, according to court papers.

Yesterday, the Staten Island home where Mr. Iqbal lives with his wife and four children — with eight satellite dishes in the backyard — was quiet, and neighbors had little to say about the entrepreneur.

But a lawyer for a former business associate of Mr. Iqbal was less taciturn.

That lawyer, Cary Sternback, represents E2V Technology, which he said is suing Mr. Iqbal and his firm charging that they failed to pay for $30,000 worth of satellite equipment, which “mysteriously ended up attached to his satellite transmitter,” an accusation Mr. Iqbal’s lawyer denied.

Mr. Sternback said, “My take on him is he’s not a terrorist, he’s an opportunist.”

John Holl contributed reporting for this article.

by wikipedia
Sunday Dec 28th, 2008 12:51 PM
The International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) is a United States federal law allowing U.S. Presidents to identify any unusual extraordinary threat that originates outside the United States and to confiscate property and prohibit transactions in response. In the United States Code the IEEPA is Title 50, sections 1701-1707.

The IEEPA authorizes the president to declare the existence of an "unusual and extraordinary threat... to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States" that originates "in whole or substantial part outside the United States." It further authorizes the president, after such a declaration, to block transactions and freeze assets to deal with the threat. In the event of an actual attack on the United States, the president can also confiscate property connected with a country, group, or person that aided in the attack.

The IEEPA falls under the provisions of the National Emergencies Act (NEA), which means that an emergency declared under the act must be renewed annually to remain in effect, and can be terminated by Congressional resolution.