Tuesday, February 3, 2009

NYT article with mode details about Javed Iqbal and the Zio-snitch who ratted him out to the Feds

The New-York Times reported in 2006: For several years, Javed Iqbal has operated a small company from a Brooklyn storefront and out of the garage at his Staten Island home that provides satellite programming for households, including sermons from Christian evangelists seeking worldwide exposure.

Mr. Iqbal’s home, a modest two-story stone and brick house on Van Name Avenue in Mariners Harbor, stands out because among the children’s toys in the backyard were eight satellite dishes.

But this week, the budding entrepreneur’s house and storefront were raided by federal agents, and Mr. Iqbal was charged with providing customers services that included satellite broadcasts of a television station controlled by Hezbollah — a violation of federal law.

Yesterday, Mr. Iqbal was arraigned in Federal District Court in Manhattan and was ordered held in $250,000 bail. The Hezbollah station, Al Manar — or “the beacon” in Arabic — was designated a global terrorist entity by the United States Treasury Department in March of this year.

Hezbollah was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in 1997.

“The charge lurking in the background is material support for terrorism,” Stephen A. Miller, an assistant United States attorney, told United States Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein. He said Mr. Iqbal, 42, was a flight risk because he has family in England and Pakistan. “We think there is a strong incentive for him to run,” Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Iqbal’s lawyer, Mustapha Ndanusa, said his client, who came to the United States from Pakistan, is a compassionate man, and at one point offered shelter in his house to a homeless woman.

"He has been very generous in the community," Mr. Ndanusa said outside court. "He’s a fun-loving guy."

Another spokesman for Mr. Iqbal called the government’s charges ridiculous. "It’s like the government of Iran saying we’re going to ban The New York Times because we think of it as a terrorist outfit," the spokesman, Farhan Memon, said before the hearing. “Or China trying to ban CNN.”

Civil libertarians also expressed alarm.

“It appears that the statute under which Mr. Iqbal is being prosecuted includes a First Amendment exemption that prevents the government from punishing people for importing news communications,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “Such an exemption is constitutionally necessary, and the fact that the government is proceeding with the prosecution in spite of it raises serious questions about how free our marketplace of idea is.”

Court papers filed by the government to obtain a warrant to search Mr. Iqbal’s business and home suggested that the authorities learned that certain high-definition global transmission systems were providing access to Al Manar broadcasts in the United States. They got their information from Mark Dubowitz, who heads a Washington-based policy group that has monitored Al Manar — through a project called the Coalition Against Terrorist Media — and campaigned for its removal from worldwide broadcasting.

Mr. Dubowitz said in a telephone interview that Al Manar’s programming includes “very explicit calls for violence,” including ones that promote suicide bombing against American troops in Iraq and “death to America.”

He said that some broadcasts, which he characterized as racist and anti-Semitic, glorify suicide bombings and suicide bombers themselves as martyrs and that children’s programming encourages youngsters to “join the jihad and give their lives for the cause.”

The programming, he said, is sophisticated and diverse, ranging from soap operas and dramas, produced in Syria and Iran, to what he called “MTV-like” music videos. A 28-part series that was broadcast over Ramadan and based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion included a dramatization that depicted what he said looked like an Orthodox Jew slitting the throat of a Christian child and draining the child’s blood to make food for Passover.

According to the government documents, agents flew a helicopter over Mr. Iqbal’s home, then sent a confidential informant to the shop to buy a satellite package from Mr. Iqbal. The informant said that Mr. Iqbal had told him that the station was legal. Mr. Iqbal, according to the government, pressed the informant to buy a package with Al Manar instead of another service.

Mr. Iqbal’s family members declined comment yesterday. Neighbors said that the family had lived there for about five years. A sign attached to a chain-link fence along the driveway announces the business, “HDTV-LTD,” and advertises “TX/RX Earthstation and video, audio data, IP security.”

Melinda Edwards, who lives across the street, said Mr. Iqbal would use his snow blower to clear her driveway after winter storms.

“He seemed nice,’’ she said. “He seemed like everyone else.” Like many others in the neighborhood, Ms. Edwards said she noticed the large number of satellite dishes — some of which can be seen from across the street — and asked him about them a while back.

“I said, ‘You got more satellite dishes than anyone I’ve ever seen,’” Ms. Edwards said.

She said that Mr. Iqbal told her that the satellites were for his business.