Geagea slams Syrian arrest warrants


Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea slammed the arrest warrants issued by the Syrian judiciary against a number of Lebanese individuals stressing that the Syrian judiciary does not have jurisdiction in this matter because the assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri took place on Lebanese soil.

Geagea’s remark come after the Syrian judiciary issued 33 arrest warrants for judges, officers, politicians and journalists of Lebanese, Arab and other nationalities in the case brought by former Lebanese General Security chief Jamil as-Sayyed, according to a statement from Sayyed’s office.

Sayyed along with 3 other generals was detained from 2005 to 2009 on suspicion of involvement in former PM Rafik Hariri’s murder. In April 2009, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL ) ordered their release without charges due to insufficient evidence. STL prosecutor made it clear at the time they were set free that their release did not mean they are Innocent and that once more evidence is available they could be back in jail.

The pro-Syrian former detainee filed a lawsuit in December 2009 in Damascus against various defendants whom he alleges were involved in a conspiracy of false testimonies against him.

“Never in Syria’s history has its judiciary issued a warrant against an individual from another country,” Geagea told the daily An Nahar on Monday.

“This is not the way to reward President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Saad Hariri for all their efforts in building ties between Lebanon and Syria,” Geagea said.

Geagea said , “The names that have been summoned draw a picture of a shocking Syrian attack on Lebanese institutions and a number of individuals.”

“Syria has attacked Lebanon’s general prosecution, the government commission at the military court, General Security chief, a number of officers who are effective in combating terrorism, and one of our most prominent MPs, Marwan Hamadeh,” Geagea said

He also wondered if it was a coincidence that the warrants were issued ahead of Monday’s Cabinet session aimed at discussing Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar’s mechanism to address false witnesses case.

The issue of the false witnesses was delegated to Najjar by the cabinet, but the Justice minister has been sick and for this reason the discussions of the issue was delayed

March 14 MP Okab Sakr told Akhbar al-Yawn news agency on September 23 that Sayyed is “the primary false witness” in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

“Hezbollah must start penalizing the primary false witness, which is now known and uncovered,” Sakr said.

Sakr’s remarks came after he accused Sayyed of fabricating the story published by German magazine Der Spiegel last year about the alleged involvement of Hezbollah in former PM Rafik Hariri’s assassination.

“What was published by the German Der Spiegel was fabricated by Jamil Sayyed,” Sakr said during a press conference.

The other , so called false witnesses , Zuhair Siddiq, Hussam Hussam were Syrian intelligence officers. While Siddiq is living in Australia , Hussam is living in Syria and many Lebanese leaders have urged the Syrian government to try him.

Reactions to the warrants

Labor Minister Butros Harb told VOL on Monday : Syrian judiciary arrest warrants have ignored the existence of the Lebanese state and Syria’s diplomatic relations with it. What took place was an insult to the Lebanese and Lebanon’s constitutional institutions.

Mustaqbal bloc MP Samir al-Jisr told VOL on Monday: Issuing arrest warrants from Syria is unfortunate from a legal perspective and baseless because they are related to a crime that took place on Lebanese soil.

Lebanon’s Internal General Security Forces chief Ashraf Rifi said on Monday that Interpol will not comply with the Syrian judiciary’s arrest warrants against Lebanese individuals because they are politically motivated.

Rifi pointed out that in the past, Syria had issued an arrest warrant against Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt that Interpol had ignored because it had political aims.

Sakr outraged

March 14 MP Okab Sakr on Sunday voiced “extreme dismay” over the Syrian arrest warrants describing the move as “a blow to the ongoing and continuing constitutional and political relations between Premier Saad Hariri and the Syrian leadership on the way towards building full confidence between the two countries.”

In a statement he issued, Saqr urged “President Michel Suleiman, in his capacity as the one entrusted with the constitution and liberties, to put his hand on this case.”

He also called on the cabinet and the premier “to have a stern and decisive stance regarding this issue.”

Saqr said that the Lebanese parliament must act, calling on Speaker Nabih Berri to “call a parliament session or form a parliamentary committee to tackle an arrest warrant issued against a Lebanese MP (Marwan Hamade) who has the backing of the Lebanese people and parliamentary immunity.”

Furthermore, Saqr stressed “the need that Lebanon’s Higher Judicial Council act legally on the issue , given that there are judges whom arrest warrants were issued against in an unprecedented move by the Syrian side.”

He also urged Interior Minister Ziad Baroud “to take an appropriate stance regarding arrest warrants issued for top Internal Security Forces officers,” calling on the editors and journalism syndicates to “hold a joint meeting and take the measures that are apt to protect journalists and media freedoms in Lebanon.”