BEIRUT: The long-awaited trials for Islamist prisoners arrested for alleged involvement in the Nahr al-Bared clashes of 2007 will begin Friday.
Following the clashes in the northern refugee camp, several hundred suspects were arrested for alleged ties with the Islamist group Fatah al-Islam.
Currently, 527 men, some holding Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian and Saudi citizenship, will be tried. Of that number 86 will be tried before the Judicial Council, as will the 130 individuals who were released on bail. The remaining will be tried in absentia.
The Judicial Council, the highest judicial body in the country, will hold its first public hearing for the Islamist prisoners six years after the battles erupted between the Islamist militants and the Lebanese Army, leaving numerous casualties on both sides, completely destroying the Palestinian camp and displacing its residents.
The council has sub-divided the Nahr al-Bared file into 30 cases because of the impossibility of trying all the suspects at once.
The trials will commence in a special venue, built especially for the case, inside the Roumieh prison complex.
Two groups of 11 men, and 37 others not present, will be tried Friday.
The arrested men scheduled to be tried Friday include Othman Ibrahim, Talal Radwan, Walid Boustany, Taha Suleiman, Mohammad Zawawi, Younes Shalabi, Mohammad Shalabi, Jamaleddine Malas, Nouri Hajji, Kamal Khalaf and Shadi Abu Ghneim.
The hearing will begin at 3 p.m. amid strict security measures carried out by the Army and the Internal Security Forces stationed in and around the Roumieh prison complex.
Security personnel will also escort judges presiding over the trial from the Beirut neighborhood of Mathaf, where the Justice Palace is located, to the prison in the Metn town of Roumieh.
The council has allowed the media to cover the trials, provided they have been granted special permission by the judicial body.
In a related development, Alkarama rights group raised concerns about the possibility of a fair trial.
“The Lebanese authorities [need] to ensure that the defendants’ right to a fair trial is fully respected, including their right to be tried by an impartial and competent body, which will guarantee that confessions extracted under torture are not admitted as evidence,” a statement from the group said.
The group also reiterated its concerns over “the fact that most detainees reported having been subjected to severe torture in the time following their arrest and in particular at the Defense Ministry. Their accounts make it clear that the acts of torture were carried out with the aim of extracting false confessions.”