BEIRUT: Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel dismissed Monday Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah's account of Lebanese nationals missing in Syria, saying their whereabouts were known and that most are being detained in Syrian prisons.
“The 662 names that we have are in Syria, Sayyed Hasan, and they are not missing but have been detained and kidnapped,” Gemayel told reporters after his party’s weekly meeting in Bikfaya.
“They were kidnapped by Syrian forces and put in Syrian prisons and we have files for all the names, that also include witness testimony, documents and the visitation permits given to their relatives,” he said.
Lebanese non-governmental organizations argue they have names of over 500 people who went missing during the Civil War and are still being held in Syrian prisons.
Gemayel described the detainees as members of the Army and civilians who fought against Syrian forces. He said the state has failed to help the families of the detainees.
“Do you want us to kill, block roads, hurt and kidnap people?" the MP asked, referring to state authorities. The families have a more civil means of pressuring for the release of their relatives, he added, by protesting outside the offices of ministers and the United Nations.
Addressing Nasrallah, Gemayel said: “You are an honorable man with your rivalries and alliances so don't cover up on the issue of the detainees whose location is known.”
During a televised speech earlier Monday, the Hezbollah leader said the recent release of nine Lebanese hostages held by Syrian rebels had raised the issue of many Lebanese who went missing during the Civil War.
“The release of the hostages opened the wounds of some families of the missing and detained who were taken to Syria,” Nasrallah said.
“It is useful to designate someone to take responsibility for this issue, especially because there have been some efforts in the past to exchange lists of names between Syria and Lebanon,” he added.
He also said such an issue should remain distanced from political disputes and should not be used for political purposes.
The Hezbollah leader said that Syrian authorities have informed him of their intention to resolve this case of the missing Lebanese.
Nasrallah said releasing detainees has always been a priority for Hezbollah, given that the resistance group has repeatedly called for the release of its members detained by Israel.
“We have some 17,000 missing in Israel, mostly Lebanese and some Palestinians. These issues should be part of a serious framework of constant follow-up with one person responsible to work on the case,” Nasrallah said.
He said a state that adopts such measures is one that "respects its citizens and respects itself."
Gemayel also criticized Nasrallah for differentiating between detainees in “sisterly Syria and others held in enemy prisons."
“ Syria shelled Lebanon and kidnapped Lebanese, violated its sovereignty on land, at sea and its airspace,” Gemayel said.
“ Syria destroyed Lebanon and occupied it. Syria has done what an emery would do in our opinion and therefore, [I think] categorizing an enemy should be based on actions not identity,” he added.
Meanwhile, the NGO Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile said they were relieved with Nasrallah’s remarks urging that a committee be formed to follow up on the disappeared and to keep the issue separate from politics.
“This is what we have always and are still calling all officials to do,” the group said in a statement. They have long called for approving a draft law to establish an independent national commission for the victims of enforced disappearances.
In August 2012, caretaker Justic Minister Shakib Qortbawi had submitted a draft decree to establish the national commission to investigate the fate of the missing Lebanese in Syria and elsewhere.