November 30, 2007 / 1:04 AM / 12 years ago

Detroit man pleads guilty to bid to aid Hizbollah

DETROIT, Nov 29 (Reuters) - A Detroit-area man on Thursday pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges after a failed 1998 attempt to deliver global positioning systems and night-vision goggles to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Fawzi Assi, 47, pleaded guilty in federal court in Detroit to attempting to provide support to a terrorist organization under U.S. law, federal prosecutors said.

The guilty plea marked the latest twist one of the first prosecutions under a 1996 U.S. law that made it illegal to provide money or other aid to terrorists groups as defined by the U.S. government.

The U.S. State Department designated Hezbollah a terrorist group in 1997.

Assi, who has been held in federal prison for the past three and a half years, now faces up to a 10-year prison term and a fine of up to $250,000, prosecutors said.

Assi was stopped in July 1998 when he attempted to board a flight from Detroit to Lebanon with two Boeing Co (BA.N)-manufactured global positioning system kits, night vision goggles and a thermal-imaging camera.

In his plea, Assi said he was attempting to deliver the equipment to a person in Lebanon who he knew was buying the gear for Hezbollah.

In an earlier hearing, FBI agents testified that Assi had told them during questioning that he supported Hezbollah’s goal of driving Israel out of southern Lebanon.

Assi fled to Lebanon shortly after his arrest in 1998. He returned to the United States and surrendered to authorities in May 2004.

"Anyone who gives money, technology or other material support to any terrorist organization will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy said in a statement.

Assi’s lawyer, James Thomas, could not be reached for comment. As part of the plea deal with prosecutors, Thomas recommended that Assi be sentenced to between three and four years in federal prison.

At the time of his arrest, Assi, a naturalized U.S. citizen who came to the United States in 1978, was an engineer with Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford Motor Co. (F.N)

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