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.
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 Iqbal was charged with providing his customers with services that included satellite broadcasts of a television station controlled by Hezbollah -- a violation of federal law.
On Thursday, Iqbal was arraigned in the US District Court in Manhattan and was ordered held on US$250,000 bail.
The Hezbollah station, al-Manar -- or "the beacon" in Arabic -- was designated a global terrorist entity by the US 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 Miller, an assistant US attorney, told US Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein.
He said 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," Miller said.
Iqbal's lawyer, Mustapha Ndanusa, said his client, who came to the US 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," Ndanusa said outside court. "He's a fun-loving guy."
Another spokesman for 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.