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Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai (C) blesses exiled members of Israels former South Lebanon Army (SLA) proxy militia and their families on May 28, 2014, outside Saint Peter's church in the Israeli village of Capernaum
Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai (C) blesses exiled members of Israels former South Lebanon Army (SLA) proxy militia and their families on May 28, 2014, outside Saint Peter’s church in the Israeli village of Capernaum
The case of the Lebanese who fled to Israel in 2000 returned lately to the forefront after the Maronite League reopened their case by describing it as “a bleeding wound that should be treated for good.”

However, there are several legal, political and even popular obstacles that prevent concerned parties from reaching a compromise to exempt those Lebanese from facing a trial.

The issue was once again brought to the forefront after a visit made by head of the Maronite League Antoine Klimos to a number of Christian villages in South Lebanon, where he met with several religious and social figures, who conveyed to him that the presence of hundreds of their sons in Israel had negative repercussions on them.

Klimos said: “Had those Lebanese nationals who fled to Israel committed a certain crime, I consider, as a lawyer, that they have already served their sentence because it has been 16 years that they are abroad.”

He added: “The presence of those exiled abroad is not for tourism. We should offer them a chance to live with dignity.”

Around 3,000 Lebanese had fled with their families to Israel with the withdrawal of the Israeli Occupied Forces from South Lebanon on May 25, 2000.

Those who fled were members of the South Lebanon Army, which collaborated with Israel under the leadership of Antoine Lahad. Those Lebanese nationals were unable to return home due to judicial prosecutions, and most importantly because they fear the negative reactions of certain political parties against them and their families.

A judicial source told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There is no compromise to the case of Israel’s agents. However, if they wish to return to Lebanon, they have to surrender to the judiciary and face investigation and a trial for dealing with the enemy and harming national interests.”

The source added that women and children who were forced to flee to Israel would not be placed under charges of crime of treason.

He said: “The simple thought of annulling the punishment and exempting them from trial is closer to being a dream. The person who wants a compromise that serves those Lebanese (living in Israel) should call for a judicial pardon from Parliament that would annul the crime from its base, and therefore would automatically drop the punishment,” a matter, the source said, “is currently unlikely.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

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