The Daily Star

Lebanon judge wants Harb’s immunity lifted

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s general prosecutor requested Monday that MP Butros Harb’s parliamentary immunity be lifted over recent statements he made following the judiciary’s decision to charge a member of Hezbollah with an attempt on the lawmaker’s life.

Judicial sources told The Daily Star that Judge Hatem Madi sent a memo to Lebanon’s justice minister requesting that Harb’s immunity be lifted for insulting the judiciary as well as the president.

The parliamentarian described Madi’s decision as comical.

“I have nothing to say other than what is happening is funny,” Harb told The Daily Star Monday.

The Batroun MP said the judge’s request that his immunity be lifted was linked to comments he made after Madi charged Mahmoud Hayek, a member of Hezbollah, with the June 2012 attempt on the politician’s life.

After Hayek was charged last week, Harb praised the judiciary’s actions, saying “justice has finally triumphed over politics and arms.”

However, he said that Hezbollah had put pressure on both political and judicial officials to prevent the handover of Hayek, who remains at large.

He also alleged Hezbollah had tried to cut a deal with the judiciary, wherein Hayek would give his testimony and then walk away.

“Obviously, Madi interpreted my remarks about pressures on President [Michel] Sleiman and the judiciary as insulting,” Harb to The Daily Star.

The March 14 coalition also issued Monday a statement denouncing Madi's request and asking him to withdraw it.

In the memo filed by the prosecutor to Justice Minister Shaqib Qortbawi, Madi said Harb’s statements about pressures on the judiciary and president were totally fabricated.

“Harb’s remarks, whether regarding the president or the judiciary are not just inaccurate, but completely fabricated,” said Madi.

According to Madi, Harb made his remarks in an interview to MTV on Sunday Feb. 3, 2012.

He said the remarks were also published by local newspapers Al-Joumhouria and al-Mustaqbal.

Harb said he would likely address the judge’s request during a news conference Tuesday.

Hayek was charged on Feb. 1 with carrying out acts of terror after planting a bomb in the elevator of the building that houses Harb’s office in Badaro, Beirut, in June 2012.

According to security sources, Hezbollah refused to hand over Hayek after his involvement was uncovered in Harb’s case.

The March 14 general secretariat condemned the request to lift Harb's immunity.

“March 14 declares full solidarity with MP Butros Harb and calls on Judge Hatem Madi to back off his decision,” said the coalition in a statement issued Monday.

The coalition also said that the judiciary should have taken action immediately to arrest those behind Harb’s assassination attempt and not seven months after the crime.

“The call to lift immunity from Harb was made less than 48 hours after the lawmaker made his statements, but the charges against Mahmoud Hayek were made nearly seven months after the assassination attempt,” said the statement.

Last week Harb also blasted the government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati for “remaining silent about Hezbollah ministers and other ministers in this Cabinet who have provided support for Hayek.”

He vowed he would keep demanding Hayek be handed to authorities.

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