updated 1/16/2004 6:41:19 PM ET 2004-01-16T23:41:19

An indictment unsealed Thursday charges a Dearborn man with conspiracy to provide material support to Hezbollah, an Islamic militant group listed by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization.

The indictment accuses Mahmoud Youssef Kourani of being a member, fighter, recruiter and fund-raiser for Hezbollah who operated in Lebanon and later within the United States.

The 32-year-old is accused of conspiring with his brother, the Hezbollah chief of military security for southern Lebanon, to provide military support for the group, which led a guerrilla war against Israel’s 18-year occupation of a border zone in southern Lebanon.

The U.S. attorney’s office said Kourani’s brother, whose name was not included in the indictment, is an unindicted co-conspirator.

Entry through Mexico alleged
According to the indictment, Kourani entered the United States illegally through Mexico in February 2001, took up residence in the Detroit area and hid his Muslim identity by not attending mosques and shaving his beard.

U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Collins said Kourani raised “a substantial sum” and offered other support to Hezbollah. Kourani’s brother monitored his activities while he lived in Michigan, Collins said.

“The message we send today is clear: Anyone who provides money to Hezbollah or any other terrorist organization will face the full wrath of a vigorous federal prosecution,” Collins said.

Kourani was to appear for a federal court arraignment later Thursday. He faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison if convicted.

He has been in custody awaiting deportation since his conviction last year in a separate case for harboring an illegal alien, said Gina Balaya, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Detroit.

Earlier conviction
Another Dearborn man with reported ties to Hezbollah was sentenced last week to 70 months in prison without the possibility of parole.

Elias Mohamad Akhdar, 31, pleaded guilty in July to a charge of conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The government argued in court documents that Akhdar and Hassan M. Makki, 42, of Dearborn, tried to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hezbollah.

Akhdar and Makki were among 11 suspects — nine Detroit-area men and two women living on an Indian reservation in New York — arrested after an indictment was unsealed Feb. 4.

Makki, who was sentenced in December to four years and nine months in prison, acknowledged providing more than $2,000 to Hezbollah after it had been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Hezbollah fought the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon.

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