Lebanon News

Tension in Tripoli, pro-Assad Eid charged

The Syrian national flag flutters as pictures of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad along with his father Syria's late president Hafez al-Assad are seen on a wall of a building in the Alawite Jabal Mohsen neighbourhood in the port city of Tripoli, northern Lebanon June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIRUT: Ali Eid, the leader of the pro-Assad Arab Democratic Party, was charged Tuesday with aiding a suspect in the twin bombings that rocked Lebanon’s Tripoli, a judicial source said, as rivals in the restless northern city called for rallies.

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who hails from Tripoli where deadly battles linked to the crisis in Syria have been waged with greater frequency, said the Cabinet could reconsider the ADP’s status.

Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr charged Eid as well as ADP member Ahmad Mohammad Ali with “hiding” a wanted suspect in the Aug. 23 car bombings in Tripoli and smuggling him to Syria, a judicial source told The Daily Star, adding that the suspects could face two years in prison if convicted.

Preliminary police investigations in the August bombings, which targeted two mosques in the port city, indicated that some of those charged have links to the ADP and Syrian Army Intelligence.

Ahmad Mohammad Ali, Eid’s driver, reportedly confessed to attempting to smuggle Ahmad Merhi – a key suspect in the case – over the border into Syria on orders of the ADP chief.

The car bombings outside the Al-Taqwa and Salam mosques killed at least 47 people and wounded more than 100. Merhi is one of Al-Taqwa mosque bombing suspects.

Saqr also charged Tuesday Sukaina Ismail, a Syrian national, with involvement in terrorist acts and escorting individuals who transported the two booby-trapped cars from Syria to Lebanon.

Shehadeh Shdoud, a Lebanese citizen, was also charged with smuggling Ismail from Lebanon to Syria, the source said, adding that Saqr referred the cases to Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghayda.

The judge’s decision brings the total number charged in the case to 11.

Although the security situation in the city remained stable, tension has been high in recent days after Eid, the secretary-general of the ADP, defied a summons over the August bombings, which prompted Saqr to issue a search warrant Monday.

Dozens of men gathered earlier Tuesday at the entrance of Jabal Mohsen, the headquarters of the ADP, to protest the search warrant for Eid, who has been backed by the Alawite community.

Eid is at large and is reportedly staying at Hikr Daher, a northern village at the border with Syria.

The ADP filed Tuesday a request to the north Lebanon Governor Nassif Qaloush to hold a “march against violence and fighting” at 11 a.m. Friday. It also requested police escort during the rally which it said would kick off from Jabal Mohsen until Nour Square in Tripoli.

The request was signed by the ADP, the Alawite Islamic Council and the civil society in Jabal Mohsen.

Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told The Daily Star he had rejected the request by the ADP after consulting Qaloush.

“I rejected granting this permit for security reasons and I will not grant any similar permit,” he said.

The ADP demonstration call angered residents from the rival Bab al-Tabbaneh, a mainly Sunni neighborhood, prompting them to call for a counter rally at the Rashid Karami International complex in Tripoli on Sunday to demand the dissolution of the ADP.

In remarks to pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, Mikati said his Cabinet could reconsider the status of the ADP before a court decision is made in the case of the Tripoli bombings.

“There is a precedent,” Mikati said, recounting the day Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea was arrested on April 21, 1994, on charges of bombing a church in Zouk and the Cabinet’s decision to pardon him 11 years later.

Mikati said the Cabinet at the time decided to dissolve the Lebanese Forces militia before a ruling was issued for Geagea, then the LF resumed work as a political party after he was freed.

“It would then be possible to reconsider the fate of the [Arab Democratic] Party in light of the ruling to be issued by the Lebanese judiciary,” Mikati said.

In separate remarks published by his office Tuesday, Mikati said he had instructed the various security agencies to “stay alert to find out who killed the people” in Tripoli, referring to the twin bombings.

Mikati also called on Eid, a former MP, to "stand before the investigative judge and give his testimony since he denies his relationship with one of the suspects who helped Ahmad Merhi escape.”

 

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