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Last Updated: Friday, 25 August 2006, 11:13 GMT 12:13 UK
US charges Hezbollah TV provider
Militiaman guards Beirut headquarters of al-Manar TV after Israeli air raid
Al-Manar's Beirut offices were bombed by Israel during the conflict
A US businessman has been charged with offering broadcasts of Hezbollah's al-Manar satellite television station to customers in the New York-area.

Javed Iqbal, originally from Pakistan, is accused by prosecutors of doing business with a terrorist entity.

The Hezbollah Shia militia has been involved in a month-long conflict with Israeli forces in Lebanon and is seen as a terrorist group by the US.

Mr Iqbal's lawyers say his arrest violates his right to free speech.

"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," a spokesman for the law firm representing Mr Iqbal told the Reuters news agency.

The charge lurking in the background is material support for terrorism
Prosecutor Stephen A Miller

"America would be hopping up and down crying freedom of speech and freedom of the press," the spokesman said.

A lawyer representing Mr Iqbal said he knew of no other case where a person had been accused of breaking US law by offering access to news outlets via satellite dish.

'Hezbollah mouthpiece'

According to court papers and government documents, the authorities sent an agent posing as a potential customer after being informed that Mr Iqbal was offering al-Manar TV.

Mr Iqbal reportedly offered the agent a television package that included access to al-Manar broadcasts.

Mr Iqbal appeared in court on Thursday and was bailed for $250,000 (132,300).

Prosecutor Stephen A Miller had argued against granting him bail, indicating more charges were likely to be filed.

"The charge lurking in the background is material support for terrorism," the Associated Press news agency quotes him as saying.




SEE ALSO
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19 Jul 06 |  Middle East
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30 Aug 06 |  Middle East
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