BEIRUT: Caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi said Saturday Majid al-Majid, the head of an Al-Qaeda offshoot who was arrested earlier this week and is wanted by Riyadh, would be tried in Lebanon for crimes he committed against national security.
“Majid al-Majid has been tried in absentia in Lebanon and he will be put on trial again, also in Lebanon, for other charges, after which he can be handed over,” Qortbawi told a local radio station.
In separate remarks to a local daily, Qortbawi said the law stipulates that detainees in Lebanon whether wanted, prosecuted or under investigation for crimes committed in the country, cannot be handed over unless the Lebanese judiciary prosecutes them first.
The minister’s remarks were in response to Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Awad Asiri, who hinted that Riyadh would seek al-Majid’s extradition. The detainee is on Riyadh’s list of its 85 most-wanted for links to Al-Qaeda.
Al-Majid is the head of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades, an Al-Qaeda offshoot, which claimed responsibility for the Nov. 19 double suicide bombing outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. The attack killed 30 people including an Iranian diplomat.
Wanted by the U.S., he has been charged in absentia in Lebanon over the Nahr al-Bared battle when the Army launched an offensive to root out Islamists in the Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon in 2007. Over 100 soldiers and 220 militants were killed in the clashes.
The Abdallah Azzam Brigades has also been accused of carrying out bombings in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen and several Western countries, including the U.S., and have claimed responsibility for rockets launched from Lebanon into Israel.
Officials and private experts in Washington said al-Majid raised funds in the Gulf for militants fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, speaking on the phone with caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour Friday, said Tehran has decided to send a delegation to Beirut to take part in Majid’s investigation, IRNA reported Friday.
Qortbawi, however, said in his comments to An-Nahar that foreign agencies were not entitled to carry out investigations in Lebanon.
“Investigations in Lebanon are carried out by security agencies and the Lebanese judiciary. Any [such] foreign request can be sent through the Justice Ministry which in turn sends it to the State Prosecution's office,” he said.
“A foreign judge can ask to meet with a Lebanese judge to discuss a certain case but investigations are done by a Lebanese judge or a Lebanese security agent,” he added.
The minister also said that foreign agencies had in the past sent Lebanese judges a list of questions to ask suspects held in Lebanon.
Majid is reportedly in a critical health condition because of kidney failure. He has been in Lebanon undergoing dialysis.