BEIRUT: Three suspects arrested over the recent kidnapping of two Turkish Airlines pilots have been referred to the judiciary, judicial sources told The Daily Star.
The three suspects, identified as two members from the Saleh family and a third from the Zogheib family, were interrogated and referred to the Mount Lebanon General Prosecutor, the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
The suspects are relatives of Jameel Saleh and Abbas Shoeib, two of the nine Lebanese hostages being held in neighboring Syria by rebels.
In May 2012, Syrian rebels abducted 11 Lebanese Shiites in Allepo’s Azaz. The Lebanese had been on a pilgrimage to the Imam al-Reda shrine in Iran. Only two of the kidnapped have been released.
Police have interrogated five individuals over the kidnapping of the Turkish nationals, the sources said, adding that two of them have been released.
On Aug. 9, Turkish Airlines pilot Murat Akpinar and his co-pilot Murat Agca were kidnapped at gunpoint as the two were making their way to a Beirut hotel. The two were snatched just after leaving the airport.
Their kidnapping has become linked to demands for the release of the nine Lebanese hostages in Syria.
Shortly after the abduction on the airport road, a group calling itself Zuwwar al-Imam Ali al-Reda – “visitors to al-Imam Ali al-Reda” claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the two Turks and demanded the release of the nine Lebanese in Syria.
The relatives of the pilgrims, who deny involvement in the abduction of Akpinar and Agca, insist Turkey help in the release their loved ones in Syria. They have held repeated sit-ins and protests outside Turkish interests in the country, including Ankara’s cultural center and the offices of Turkish Airlines in Beirut.
Angered over the “random” arrest of their loved ones, the relatives held Saturday a sit-in near the General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces in Ashrafieh.
Amid a heavy security deployment, the relatives accused the police of disseminating false information about the case of the kidnapped Turks.
Daniel Shoaib, the brother of one of the hostages, Abbas Shoaib, said the Information Branch was providing media outlets with false reports blaming the relatives for the abduction of the Turks.
“The sit-in is in protest of the random arrests by the Information Branch of our relatives through false accusations that the hostages’ relatives are behind the abduction of the Turkish pilots,” he said.
Shoaib said that three men had been arrested for their alleged involvement in the abduction of the pilots on the basis of “void accusations.”
In a statement, the Internal Security Forces said the relatives of the detained three could visit to see their loved ones after getting permission from the Mount Lebanon Public Prosecution.
The police also denied media reports claiming the three were being mistreated during the course of the investigation.
“The [ISF] General Directorate assures that such reports are false and that the detainees are in good health and were not subjected to any harm,” the statement said.