Lebanon News

Sleiman, Kahwagi stress Army is law abiding

President Michel Sleiman, left, receives Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi in Baabda, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman and Gen. Jean Kahwagi Monday stressed that the Army operated within the limits of the law, rejecting campaigns alleging military misconduct, a day after Muslim scholars accused the armed forces of torturing a detained sheikh.

“[Sleiman and Kahwagi] agreed that the Army acts according to governing laws, the national interest, the preservation of peace and safety of citizens,” according to a statement from the Presidential Palace.

“Investigations are supervised by the relevant judiciary and are of a high level of accuracy and transparency,” the statement said.

“The Army, the primary national institution that forms the backbone of peace and stability ... should not be a target of accusations in a bid to protect or provide cover for individuals or groups who commit violations,” it added.

According to the Baabda Palace statement, Sleiman and Kahwagi also discussed the security situation in Lebanon, particularly in the northern city of Tripoli.

On Sunday, more than a dozen Muslim scholars protested outside Lebanon’s Defense Ministry, calling for the release of a Sunni preacher who was detained last week for allegedly having links to groups that were involved in recent bombings in the country.

The group of religious figures claimed that the sheikh, Omar Atrash, was beaten and intimidated during questioning. They also demanded that Atrash have a lawyer present during interrogation.

Atrash, who hails from the Bekaa Valley in east Lebanon, is accused by Army Intelligence of smuggling terrorists, rigged cars and belts of explosives through the border town of Arsal to Beirut. His alleged smuggling activities are believed to be linked to several attacks in the country.

The military has been accused on several occasions by Islamist groups in Tripoli of targeting the Sunni sect and arbitrarily detaining a number of individuals in the northern city.

The Army has so far detained more than 29 people as part of its plan to end repeated clashes in Tripoli between fighters from the Sunni-dominated Bab al-Tabbaneh and the mainly Alawite Jabal Mohsen. The two neighborhoods have been caught in on-and-off violence for nearly three years over the Syrian crisis.

On a number of occasions, gunmen in the city have clashed with the military. The latest round of violence earlier this month left two soldiers dead and a number wounded.





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