Man loses cit­i­zen­ship for ties to Hezbol­lah

Houston Chronicle - - CITY | STATE - By Guillermo Con­tr­eras gcon­tr­eras@ex­ twit­­in­fed­land

SAN AN­TO­NIO — A San An­to­nio man was sen­tenced Mon­day to five years in pri­son and stripped of his U.S. cit­i­zen­ship for ly­ing about his prior af­fil­i­a­tion with Hezbol­lah.

Wissam Al­louche, 46, said noth­ing at his sen­tenc­ing while his lawyers said they plan to ap­peal. Al­louche has been adamant that he is in­no­cent. Pros­e­cu­tors claim that in the 1980s, Al­louche was the com­man­der of the now-de­funct mili­tia group known as Amal in his na­tive Le­banon and had sway over fighters with Hezbol­lah, which is con­sid­ered a ter­ror­ist group by the U.S.

Un­der the rec­om­mended sen­tenc­ing guide­lines, Al­louche faced six months to 12 months be­hind bars, but As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Mark Roomberg suc­cess­fully ar­gued for a stiffer sen­tence.

Over the ob­jec­tions of Al­louche’s lawyer, Cyn­thia Orr, Se­nior U.S. Dis­trict Judge Royce C. Lam­berth, a for­mer mem­ber of the se­cret For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court, gave Al­louche five years in pri­son. He also in­val­i­dated the Amer­i­can cit­i­zen­ship Al­louche got af­ter mar­ry­ing a U.S. Army of­fi­cer and mov­ing here. Army Lt. Col. Jen­nifer Danko di­vorced him af­ter ini­tially with­hold­ing from su­pe­ri­ors what she knew about his past.

Orr ar­gued that Al­louche, a con­tract trans­la­tor who was at one time imbed­ded with U.S. troops, helped them as they fought the en­emy in Iraq. Orr said Al­louche has not been in­volved in ter­ror­ism but noted that his habit of em­bel­lish­ing his back­ground is what got the gov­ern­ment on his tail.

Roomberg coun­tered that Al­louche could have got­ten ac­cess to sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion, not­ing trial tes­ti­mony showed Al­louche donned a uni­form to im­per­son­ate a U.S. Army ma­jor and pre­sented false cre­den­tials to get ac­cess to at least one San An­to­nio mil­i­tary base.

“The only ... army he fought with is Hezbol­lah,” Roomberg told the judge. “He never fought for the U.S.”

At trial, pros­e­cu­tors also said Al­louche is a Hezbol­lah sym­pa­thizer who hung the group’s flag in his garage, had it as his com­puter’s screen­saver, was on the web­site for AlMa­nar — Hezbol­lah’s TV sta­tion — so much that he book­marked it, and had a DVD of Al-Manar — “a piece of ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda” — in his home.

In Fe­bru­ary, ju­rors found Al­louche guilty of falsely claim­ing he was still living with Danko so he could get U.S. cit­i­zen­ship. He also was con­victed of with­hold­ing his prior membership in the Amal mili­tia as he sought a na­tional se­cu­rity clear­ance for more con­tract work with the De­fense Depart­ment as a lin­guist.

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