BEIRUT (AP) – The leader of Hezbollah on Thursday slammed an Egyptian court verdict that convicted 26 men of spying for the militant group and plotting attacks in Egypt, calling the ruling “political and unjust.”
In comments to Kuwait’s Rai TV distributed by Hezbollah’s media office, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said the men are only guilty of carrying out their “duty” by offering support for militants in Gaza who are fighting Israel.
The men were convicted of planning attacks on tourists and shipping in the Suez Canal, and sending operatives and explosives to Gaza to aid militants there. An Egyptian court sentenced the men Wednesday to prison terms ranging from six months to life.
“The verdicts that were issued against the mujahedeen (holy fighters) who were offering support for the mujahedeen in the Gaza Strip are political and unjust,” Nasrallah said. He called the ruling “a badge of honor” for the 26 men.
The trial, which started in August 2009, marks the first time Egypt has prosecuted alleged Hezbollah activists. In April of that year, Egyptian security officials said they had uncovered a Hezbollah cell plotting to destabilize the country.
It was also the first time Egypt has convicted people involved in the smuggling trade with Gaza.
Nasrallah has acknowledged sending an agent to supervise weapons shipments to Hamas in Gaza, but he has denied seeking to undermine Egypt’s security.
The Egyptian verdict cannot be appealed and the convicts can only be released if Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak grants them pardon.
Nasrallah said he would seek to overturn the verdicts through “political and diplomatic channels.”