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Bassil denies link to Israeli 'spy' internet company
[August 16, 2009]

Bassil denies link to Israeli 'spy' internet company

BEIRUT, Aug 17, 2009 (The Daily Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Telecommunications Minister Gibran Bassil on Saturday denied allegations made by a rival politician that his party was linked to an internet company recently found to have connections to Israel. Future Movement MP Ammar Houry told New Television Saturday that the company's manager was a supporter of Christian opposition group the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and was "very close to them, particularly to one of the parties that belongs to this bloc." Bassil, a member of the FPM, swiftly refuted Houry's remarks.

Lebanon's Prosecutor-General last week ordered the closure of the internet company, whose name has not been disclosed, based in the Chouf Mountains, after it was found to have links to Israel.

Troops from the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) raided the company offices in Barouk last week and discovered its server was wired to a satellite pointing towards Israel.

Officials discovered the equipment connected to an internet company that distributes internet lines in the region, including Lebanon, through Israel. Subsequent interrogations of employees also pointed to an Israeli link, As Safir newspaper reported, citing unidentified sources. Several government institutions are reportedly subscribed with the company.

Houry also alleged the company was established during Emile Lahoud's presidency, and that it was allowed to reopen for business after two days.

Hizbullah's Al-Manar television last week alleged the Israeli connection was first unearthed in April, but said intervention from a large political party had prevented an earlier raid. There may be several other companies in Lebanon that are violating the law banning contact with Israel, unidentified sources told As Safir.

Beirut remains in a state of war with Tel Aviv, and Lebanese citizens are forbidden from having contact with Israelis or from visiting Israel.

Lebanon has arrested dozens of people since January on suspicion of spying for Israel in a high profile campaign to dismantle espionage cells. Around 40 of those are currently in detention, according to AFP.

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