New Yorker arrested for broadcasting Hizbollah TV
New York, Aug 25: US authorities have arrested a New York man for locally broadcasting Hizbollah television al-Manar, which the US Treasury Department has branded a terrorist entity.
Javed Iqbal, 42, was arrested on Wednesday on allegations that his Brooklyn-based company HDTV Ltd. was providing New York-area satellite customers with the Hizbollah-operated channel, federal prosecutors said yesterday.
He was freed on 250,000 dollar bail secured by his home.
Defence lawyers said Iqbal had done no wrong, branded the arrest as a violation of his free-speech rights, and linked itto the recent fighting between Israel and Hizbollah in which al-Manar broadcast news and propaganda for Hizbollah and had its Lebanese headquarters destroyed by Israeli air strikes.
A fragile UN-brokered truce between Israel and Hizbollah came into effect on August 14 after a month of fighting that killed more than 1,300 people, mostly Lebanese civilians.
Iqbal, who moved to the United States from Pakistan when he was 18, has been charged with conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
Federal authorities searched HDTV's Brooklyn office and Iqbal's Staten Island home, where he was suspected of maintaining satellite dishes.
''The charge lurking in the background here is material support for terrorism,'' federal prosecutor Stephen Miller told the judge at Iqbal's arraignment yesterday.
The US Treasury Department froze the US assets of al-Manar in March, saying it supported fund-raising and recruitment activities of Hizbollah, a Shiite Muslim group backed by Syria and Iran.
At that time al-Manar was designated a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity, making it a crime to conduct business with al-Manar, prosecutors said.
''It's like the government of Iran saying we are going to ban the New York Times because we think of it as a terrorist outfit, or China saying we will ban CNN,'' said Farhan Memon, a spokesman for the law firm representing Iqbal, Ndanusa and Davis.
''America would be hopping up and down crying freedom of speech and freedom of the press,'' Memon said.