BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Eid’s family seeks justice from tribunal, fears son’s killer will never be found

  • File - The parents of slain Major Wissam Eid look at his picture at their house in Beirut, Monday, Feb. 18, 2013. (The Daily Star/Stringer)

DEIR AMAR, Lebanon: The burial ground in this suburb of Tripoli where Capt. Wissam Eid was laid to rest after his assassination is peaceful, a far cry from the emotional turbulence that his killing still evokes at home.

The pain is all too near for his mother Samira as she flips through newspaper clippings from Jan. 26, 2008, a day after a car bomb claimed her son’s life. Back then, all that was known was that Capt. Eid was a top terrorism investigator.

The full extent of his involvement in the investigation of the bombing that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others only emerged later.

His father Mahmoud’s voice rises and falls. It rises in anger particularly as he questions why his son’s case is not being handled by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the court investigating the killing of Lebanon’s former charismatic premier.

It falls as he ponders justice denied, despairing over the fact that he may never know who killed his son, a 31-year-old officer of the Internal Security Forces who was instrumental in analyzing the telecommunications data that would eventually lead to indictments and arrest warrants by the Hague-based court.

“Not at all,” he said, when asked if there had been any progress in the investigation. “The great blame is on the tribunal.”

The young telecoms engineer had been working closely with international investigators, unraveling the surveillance network that tracked Hariri and allegedly orchestrated the bombing.

The network of phones was eventually identified as belonging to five Hezbollah suspects who have been indicted by the court.

His father had pressured him to join the ISF after having served in government himself. One can detect a twinge of regret in his voice, but only just.

The rest is assertive pride at his son’s achievement.

Eid was killed two days after his last meeting on Jan. 23 with investigators from the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission.

“He gave [information] to them Wednesday and Friday he was dead,” Mahmoud said.

“He worked with them and gave them information, everything he had,” he added. “It shouldn’t have been him. He was a young officer, a captain.”

“Shouldn’t they have protected him? And when he was killed, shouldn’t his case be with the tribunal?”

His parents speak with pride of his part in the investigation, but say that he kept most of his work secret from them.

They only found out how deeply he had been involved in the Hariri investigation after a report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation revealed his role.

“He analyzed with a pen and paper and stayed up long nights,” Samira said with a twinkle of nostalgia in her eyes.

One of the few early hints they received were from the words of Gen. Ashraf Rifi, the ISF’s director, who visited the family after their son’s death and told them that “his name will be written in history.”

“My son died because of the tribunal,” Mahmoud said, trying another analogy for why his son’s case should be in The Hague.

“If you work at a big workshop, isn’t the owner responsible if there is an accident?”

One of Eid’s diaries ended up in the family home by accident and was returned to investigators when they realized that it was missing.

The agenda, which he started in 2008 and therefore was only partially filled before his killing, reportedly includes some of his observations on the case. It features references to experiments with a mobile phone network, the movements of such a network of lines and witness testimonies.

The prosecution’s indictment relies primarily on telecommunications evidence that linked such networks of phones used in the surveillance of Hariri prior to the attack, to personal phones in the same vicinity that belonged to the alleged suspects in the case, a technique that is known as co-location.

“On my behalf, please ask, why isn’t his case with the tribunal?” Mahmoud said.

“They relied on my son’s work and then left him out,” Samira said.

When asked if the Lebanese authorities had achieved any progress in the investigation, he replied: “What Lebanese government?”

And when asked if the truth could ever be uncovered in his son’s case, he declared: “No way.”

Trial in the Hariri assassination may be starting on Jan. 16, but, he added, “The truth behind my son’s case? No. No.”

His mother recalled a changed, nervous Wissam in the days leading up to his murder.

“He was very tired,” she said.

“It felt like there was a lot on his mind, something big that he could not reveal,” she said.

Wissam’s parents found out that he had been killed from the TV. Reports said the description matched that of a senior police officer, not a young captain on the force.

But they had feared that he would be assassinated. There were already two attempts on his life before, his mother said. In one of them, an explosive attached to his door was detonated as he was leaving his apartment in the southern suburbs.

Eid was instrumental in the identification and arrest of terrorist networks in Lebanon, including one that attacked Army posts in Sidon and Beirut, as well as in operations against Fatah al-Islam. He also tracked down a major terrorism network based in Tripoli in 2007, according to an ISF publication.

The first time her son adorned newspaper pages was following a raid on a telecommunications office that declared there had been a “major development” in the Hariri investigation linked to mtc touch phones lines.

Wissam was part of the raid, and his face appeared on the front page of a local newspaper, a development that disturbed him.

“You could read in his face words that he would not say,” Samira said. “They were not Wissam’s eyes that were happy and smiling, they were filled with secrets.”

“My son’s eyes told stories.”

His father’s shock appeared still raw nearly six years after the assassination. When asked how he reacted upon finding out his son was murdered, he was quiet.

“What can I do?” he said. “A father whose son was killed in this way.”

Samira bridled at the fact that his case had almost disappeared from public view, that he was not given due credit and tribute for his groundbreaking work.

“My son was martyred and paid for his work in blood, and we lost him, a young man of 31,” she said.

Samira’s animated, kind face falls, and her voice softens when her husband asks her to bring out the medals awarded to their son posthumously.

“What am I going to do with them? My son is gone,” Samira responds.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 11, 2014, on page 2.
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Summary

Wissam Eid was laid to rest after his assassination is peaceful, a far cry from the emotional turbulence that his killing still evokes at home.

His father Mahmoud's voice rises and falls. It rises in anger particularly as he questions why his son's case is not being handled by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the court investigating the killing of Lebanon's former charismatic premier.

It falls as he ponders justice denied, despairing over the fact that he may never know who killed his son, a 31-year-old officer of the Internal Security Forces who was instrumental in analyzing the telecommunications data that would eventually lead to indictments and arrest warrants by the Hague-based court.

The network of phones was eventually identified as belonging to five Hezbollah suspects who have been indicted by the court.

The prosecution's indictment relies primarily on telecommunications evidence that linked such networks of phones used in the surveillance of Hariri prior to the attack, to personal phones in the same vicinity that belonged to the alleged suspects in the case, a technique that is known as co-location.


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