Prime Minister Najib Miqati blasted in a statement on Tuesday Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun’s remarks over the telecommunications data dispute, saying that there are laws and regulations that specify how to handle this issue and the PM has the final say on this matter not the minister of Communications.
He was responding to Aoun’s comment earlier today:
Aoun said on Tuesday: “The minister is responsible for his ministry and handing over the data is unconstitutional.”
The PM said in his statement : “Article 9 of article 140 of the wiretapping law stipulates that each of the defense and interior ministers could be granted the right to intercept phone calls through written consent and the prime minister’s approval in order to garner information aimed at combating terrorism and crimes against the state.”
This right was asserted by a delegation that visited France in August 2012 to tackle the telecom data issue, the statement added.
“The delegation’s report stipulated that the prime minister has the final say over whether the data can be handed over to the sides that have requested it”, stressed the statement.
This development comes after the PM referred to Sehanoui on Monday a decision to hand over to the security agencies the necessary telecom data according to article 140 of the wiretapping law.
Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui, a member of Aoun’s bloc had rejected the request made by the Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi and Army Commander General Jean Kahwaji, arguing that the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority didn’t approve it.
“If they are not pleased with the minister’s decision, then they should amend article 140 of the wiretapping law,” Aoun said on Tuesday following the Change and Reform bloc meeting saying that it is unconstitutional .
PM Mikati responded in his statement by saying: “Given the current situation, each official is required to contribute to the implementation of article 9 in a manner that would help the armed forces and Internal Security Forces combat terrorism and organized crime.”
Lebanon has been witnessing for several months a wave of assassinations starting with the attempted assassination of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea last April, the attempted assassination of MP Harb , the assassination of Lebanon Internal Security intelligence chief Wissam al Hassan who was killed last October and several threats of assassinations against several figures including MP Marwan Hamadeh and Mufti Shaar of Tripoli.
Hezbollah has been accused of being behind these threats . The person behind the attempted assassination of MP Harb , Mahmoud al-Hayek has been identified as a Hezbollah member and an arrest warrant has been issued against him but Hezbollah refuses to hand him over to the judicial authorities just like they refused to hand over the four killers of former PM Rafik Hariri who was assassinated in 2005
According to observers Telecom data is very important for the security agencies in their investigation of these incidents. But Aoun being a close ally of Hezbollah is trying to protect it by making it difficult for the security agencies to trace the killers.