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Uproar Over ‘Hezbollah Pressure’ On Lebanese Military Judiciary

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By Najia Houssari

The families of those arrested in the Tayouneh violence that occurred on Oct. 14, along with the families of those arrested in the Khalde incident that took place in early August, are up in arms over what they allege are the “biased actions” of the judicial authorities.

The families have in recent days been reacting angrily about the lack of arrests of anyone associated with Hezbollah regarding either incident, “although the party and its gunmen were clearly involved in both.”

The families are questioning whether the Lebanese military judiciary is turning a blind eye on those involved in the violence, or if the institution was shaken by the pressure Hezbollah exerts on every aspect of the state.

Clashes had erupted in Khalde, south of Beirut, between Hezbollah members and residents affiliated to Arab tribes known as the “Arabs of Khalde,” during the funeral of Hezbollah official Ali Shibli. Two people died and several civilians were injured as a result.

The first acting military investigative judge, Judge Fadi Sawan, issued an indictment for the Khalde incident two days ago, referring 32 defendants, including 23 detainees from the Arabs of Khalde, to the military court for trial.

However, he disregarded all Hezbollah affiliates who were involved in the clashes.

Sawan requested that the defendants be tried for “forming an armed group with the intent of committing crimes against people, murder, attempted murder, inciting sectarian strife, vandalism and the use of unlicensed war weapons.”

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said that what happened in Khalde was “attempted murder, this massacre was committed by a gang.”

He demanded that “all those involved, whose faces and names are well-known, be held accountable.”

The families reacted strongly to Nasrallah’s narrative, asking him to “double-check his sources before slandering the Arab tribes.”

The families of those arrested in the Khalde incident blocked the Khalde highway on Friday in protest against “focusing only on the tribes and leaving Hezbollah out of it.”

They expressed anger toward the military court’s biased actions, since “21 young men from Khalde are yet to be released, while not a single Hezbollah affiliate, whose names and addresses the security services know, has yet been detained.”

Future Movement MP Rola Al-Tabash said: “The Arab tribes will not be a scapegoat. Why weren’t the gunmen who attacked the tribes in their homes arrested?”

He added: “The judiciary stood against the oppressed, and with the armed oppressor, right under the state’s nose.”

Meanwhile, no indictment has yet been issued regarding the Tayouneh incident, which left seven dead and 32 injured.

The defense team of the detainees, most of whom are affiliated to the Lebanese Forces, submitted a complaint before the military prosecution that includes “photos and videos documenting the armed individuals who participated in the clashes but were not summoned for interrogation.”

However, the military prosecution “did not decide on the complaint,” according to the defense team, “and none of the mentioned individuals were summoned, and they are members of the Resistance Brigades, a faction affiliated with Hezbollah.”

In the wake of the Tayouneh incident, Nasrallah publicly accused the Lebanese Forces of starting the clashes and demanded that the party’s leadership be held accountable.

Consequently, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea was summoned to testify before Lebanese army intelligence, but he did not comply.

The families of the detainees have been protesting in front of the military court. Antoine Saad, an attorney representing the detainees, said: “Ain Al-Remmaneh will not be a scapegoat.”

The lawyer added: “The judge is not treating all parties involved in the incident fairly. What was announced about the investigations contradicts what happened in reality.”

The former head of the State Shoura Council, Judge Shukri Sader, told Arab News: “Many have complained about the military court that is handling the cases of the Tayouneh and Khalde incidents. It is believed to be an island that operates on its own and that the Supreme Judicial Council has no control over it. Is it permissible to try the victim and exclude the perpetrators?”

He added: “The judiciary in Lebanon is a mess; the parties and the legislative and executive authorities are always exerting pressure on it. What is happening in the Beirut port blast probe is proof.”

Sader said the judicial investigator “has been prevented from questioning defendants, particularly political and security officials. Many have attempted to remove him from the case and illegally get their hands on the confidential investigations.”

Sader noted: “It is clear that many are trying to influence and pressure the military judiciary.

“To prevent what is happening, the military judiciary’s powers must be limited to only trying military personnel.

“Using the ‘terrorist acts’ pretext is abuse. The Tayouneh and Khalde incidents were not acts of terrorism, but a group of thugs roaming the streets, which is the product of warlords controlling the state.

“These people do not want a state of law, but rather a farm; a farm that has infiltrated the judiciary.”

Former Minister Ahmed Fatfat said that he is not surprised by the military judiciary avoiding arresting Hezbollah militants.

“Hezbollah has taken all state institutions hostage, including the military judiciary, and is trying to take over the civil judiciary as well. But civil judges are speaking up, namely Judge Tarek Bitar, who is leading the investigation into the Beirut port blast,” he told Arab News.

Fatfat added: “This has been happening for a long time. Have we forgotten about the pilot officer, Samer Hanna, who was killed in 2008 while his helicopter was flying over an area where Hezbollah was stationed in Sejoud? At the time, Hezbollah sent a man with a hand disability to the military court and said that he was the one who shot down the helicopter.

“This man later admitted that he was legally mandated by Hezbollah to say that he did it. The case was closed there and then, and Hezbollah was never held accountable.”

He noted: “Some Lebanese parties refuse to admit that Lebanon is under Iranian occupation.

“As long as these parties provide cover for Hezbollah by sharing power, nothing will change. Hezbollah controls the country, but it does not bear responsibility.

“People criticize the government and the president and do not realize that Hezbollah is the source of the crisis.”

Fatfat stressed: “We should let Hezbollah rule alone and bear the responsibility.

“We should all join the political opposition against it and only then will Hezbollah’s true colors be revealed.

“I don’t know why the Free Patriotic Movement and even Prime Minister Najib Mikati are clinging to power.

“What for? I don’t believe they fear another vacuum because the government is already disrupted by a Hezbollah decision.”

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Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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