LIMASSOL, Cyprus (AP) – A Swedish-Lebanese man on Friday pleaded not guilty to charges he was planning an attack on Israeli citizens in Cyprus, in a case that Israel has said bears similarities to a suicide bombing that killed five Israeli tourists and a bus driver in Bulgaria last summer.
A state prosecutor read out eight charges against Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, including conspiracy and consent to commit a criminal offense and participation in a criminal organization. Yaacoub originally faced 17 terrorism and terrorism-related charges according to police, but prosecutors last month dropped any reference to terrorism in the new charges without explanation.
According to notes explaining the charges, prosecutors say the 24-year-old knowingly conspired with others to “abduct a person for the purpose of subjecting him to harm or attacking him to cause grievous bodily harm” and was prepared to carry out missions around the world on the orders of others against Israeli citizens.
Yaacoub was also charged with having in his possession $18,600 that were obtained as a result of an unspecified criminal act. He will remain in custody until the trial resumes Oct. 25.
The alleged offenses occurred on two separate occasions, between Nov. 2011 and Jan. 2012, and in the first week of July. Yaacoub was arrested several days before a suicide bomber killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver in Burgas, Bulgaria, in July. Cypriot Justice Minister Loucas Louca has said a tip from foreign intelligence agencies he didn’t specify led to Yaacoub’s arrest.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Yaacoub was a Hezbollah operative who used the same “modus operandi” as the Burgas suicide bomber, but offered no evidence to back up the allegations.
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