- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BEIRUT (AP) - A Lebanese man arrested three years ago on terrorism charges for allegedly plotting to blow up New York City commuter tunnels has been released on bail, Lebanese officials said Tuesday.

The case was said to have been an al-Qaida plot involving Assem Hammoud and seven other people.

Hammoud was arrested in April 2006 in Lebanon. The FBI said the plotters planned to bomb and flood Hudson River train tunnels that carry tens of thousands of commuters between New York and New Jersey.

U.S. federal officials said the eight suspects _ including Hammoud and two others in custody elsewhere _ had hoped to pull off the attack in October or November 2006.

After Hammoud’s arrest, Lebanese authorities said they found maps and bombing plans on his personal computer, that he confessed to the plot and swore allegiance to al-Qaida.

Following a trial before the military court last year Hammoud was released on a bail of 1 million Lebanese pounds ($667) pending a verdict, the judiciary officials said.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the case’s sensitivity.

The officials said that under Lebanese law, Hammoud had spent the maximum time in custody on charges of plotting terrorism. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Hammoud’s release only came to light Tuesday, when he appeared on Al-Arabiya Television. In the interview, he rejected the charges against him and said he doesn’t “hate the American people.”

He also said he was released last June, after 26 months in solitary confinement.

There was never an issue of Hammoud’s extradition to the United States since there is no extradition treaty between Lebanon and the U.S.



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