BEIRUT: The Future parliamentary bloc said Tuesday it reserved the right to sue caretaker Telecoms Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui, accusing the official of obstructing the work of the international court probing the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Sehnaoui responded to his rivals’ accusation, accusing the Future bloc of lying and deceiving.
His office also said that the minister would only stick to statements made by the international court “which foils the Future bloc's attempt to promote lies.”
The bloc also said the presence of illegitimate arms, a reference to Hezbollah’s arsenal, was to blame for the emigration of many Lebanese, including those who had drowned last month while trying to gain illegal passage to Australia.
“The bloc strongly condemns the telecommunications minister's suspicious behavior and [the bloc] along with the victims’ families reserve the right to file a lawsuit against the minister for obstructing the course of the investigation in a crime that targeted the nation and its citizens,” the statement said.
“The facts point to negligence and deliberate delay which shows an intention to directly delay the courts and consequently pave the way for criminals to get away from punishment,” it added.
Last week, a report in An-Nahar newspaper said the Telecommunications Ministry has been deliberately stalling in meeting the demands of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and its requests for telecoms data.
The report quoted STL officials as voicing concerns that the delay might allow potential changes and forgery of the needed data.
The Tribunal's spokesperson told The Daily Star Friday that Lebanese authorities continue to cooperate with the court despite delays in the past which were overcome through a collaborative approach.
The Future bloc, meeting at former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s residence in Beirut, also voiced surprise at the state’s “negligence,” particularly of the Foreign Ministry, to victims of last month's boat tragedy near Indonesia which claimed the lives of several Lebanese seeking to enter Australia illegally.
Without naming it, the bloc said Hezbollah’s arsenal had pushed many in the country to emigrate.
“The bloc considers the presence of arms outside the jurisdiction of the Lebanese state to be responsible for the emigration of Lebanese in illegal ways as well as Lebanese lining up outside embassies seeking to emigrate,” it said.
The Future Movement has been a staunch critic of Hezbollah, arguing that the party’s arsenal undermines the authority of the state.
The bloc also touched on the deadly clashes last week in the eastern city of Baalbek between members of Hezbollah and a local Sunni family.
The incident, initially a personal dispute over a Hezbollah checkpoint in the city, developed into gun battles that killed four people, including two Hezbollah members, and the wounding of five others.
“What occurred in the city of Baalbek represents one episode in the series of Hezbollah's arms [influence] over public life that also creates tension wherever it is,” the bloc said.
“To prevent a repetition of such events, Hezbollah should withdraw its militias from all villages, cities and Lebanese areas so the state can take up the task of protecting the nation and the citizen,” it added.
Hezbollah has in recent days handed over a number of its checkpoints to the Lebanese Army in several parts of the country, including Baalbek and the southern suburbs of Beirut, where the resistance had stepped up security measures following deadly car bombings.
The Future bloc also praised President Michel Sleiman's efforts during meetings in New York at the annual U.N. General Assembly gathering, saying his efforts “led the international community to affirm the need to distance Lebanon from regional turmoil and implement U.N. Security Council resolutions in accordance with the Baabda Declaration.”
It also reiterated the bloc’s demand that Sleiman and Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam form a Cabinet as soon as possible to restore trust in the state institutions and address the needs of the people.
"The economic situation can no longer bear this paralysis and leads to an accumulation of damage that threatens the livelihoods of citizens in a dangerous manner,” the Future bloc said.