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Lebanese man convicted of storing bomb materials

BANGKOK – A Thai court on Wednesday convicted a Swedish man of Lebanese origin for illegal possession of bomb-making materials that he was storing in a warehouse outside Bangkok.

Atris Hussein was arrested Jan 12, 2012, at Bangkok’s main airport after a tip-off from Israeli police who claimed he was going to stage a terrorist attack in Thailand. After being questioned, the 49-year-old led police to a warehouse that contained more than 6,200 pounds of liquid ammonium nitrate and 8,800 pounds of urea fertilizer, both of which can be used to make explosives.

Thai authorities have accused Hussein of links to Hezbollah militants and say he was storing the items in Bangkok before plans to ship them to another destination.

The court convicted and sentenced Hussein to two years and eight months in prison for illegal possession of the ammonium nitrate, which is a banned substance under Thailand’s Weapons Act. It did not convict him for possession of the fertilizer, which is not considered an illegal substance.

After the verdict, Hussein – his legs in chains – told reporters he was “happy” with the ruling. His lawyer said they plan to appeal.

Hussein has claimed innocence in the case and denies any links to pro-Iranian Hezbollah militants. He has said he was probably framed by Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

In an interview last year with a Swedish newspaper, Hussein said that he was involved in a business that exported a variety of goods from Thailand to other countries, including Lebanon. The products included fans, copy machine paper and frozen gel packs used for pain relief, he said.

“There is ammonium in these packs. That’s all there is to it. We never traded with fertilizer. It must have been placed there by someone, probably Mossad,” Hussein said told Aftonbladet newspaper.

He said he moved to Sweden in 1989 and became a Swedish citizen five years later. He said he worked in the country as a hairdresser before moving back to Lebanon in 2005.

His arrest in Thailand was linked to warnings by the United States and Israel of a possible terror threat in Bangkok, coming at a time of heightened tension over U.S. and Israeli responses to the prospect that Iran was moving ahead with its nuclear program.

Thai police have said Hussein’s case was unrelated to a botched bomb plot in Bangkok that was exposed on Feb. 14, 2012, shortly after his arrest. In that case, which also wrapped up recently, an accidental explosion blew apart a Bangkok home where a group of Iranians were staying.

A court last month sentenced one of the Iranians to life in prison and his compatriot to 15 years in jail for possession of illegal explosives and other charges for the plot that officials say was aimed at Israeli diplomats in Bangkok.