BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Atrash confesses, but Muslim Scholars Committee cries foul

Muslim Scholars protest Atrashe's detention (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: A detained preacher confessed that he transported suicide bombers and rigged cars linked to the recent attacks in areas where Hezbollah enjoys wide support, a security source told The Daily Star Monday.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said Sheikh Omar Atrash, arrested by the Army last week, admitted he was also involved in a twin suicide attack on an Army checkpoint in Sidon last month that killed one soldier.

Atrash hails from the Bekaa Valley town of Arsal.

Hundreds were killed and wounded in bomb attacks, some carried out by suicide bombers, in areas where Hezbollah supporters reside in Beirut’s southern suburbs and the Bekaa Valley.

Meanwhile, Brig. Edmond Fadel, the Army Intelligence director general, turned down a request sent by a delegation of the Muslim Scholars Committee to meet Atrash in prison or to allow his lawyer be present during his interrogation.

“The result of the meeting was not up to expectations. [Fadel] was very nice but he said that according to the law, we cannot meet Sheikh Omar, nor can his lawyer be present during interrogations,” said Muslim Scholars Committee head Sheikh Adnan Amama, who was part of the delegation that visited Fadel at the Defense Ministry in Yarze.

“He promised that he would consult his superiors to allow us to meet Sheikh Omar,” Amama added.

Amama said he believed Atrash was forced to make his confession, adding that he would only believe it was true if Atrash had made it in the presence of his lawyer.

“When you are kept for three days in a cell in which you cannot stand or sleep or have water or food, then definitely you will make such confessions,” Amama said. Also Monday, the delegation met Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani and planned to visit caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel Wednesday.

“Sunnis have a feeling of bitterness, oppression and even hatred toward the military establishment because of the mistakes committed by the Army,” Amama said. “We feel the law is only applied to us and the Army raids only our areas ... we want politicians to help us defuse anger [among Sunnis].”

More than a dozen members of the Muslim Scholars Committee protested outside the Defense Ministry Sunday, calling for the release of Atrash.

The military has also 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.

President Michel Sleiman and Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi Monday stressed that the Army operated within the limits of the law, rejecting campaigns alleging military misconduct.

“They [Sleiman and Kahwagi] stressed that the Army only acts according to laws in force, the national interest, the preservation of peace and security of people,” said a statement from the Presidential Palace.

“That investigation, in particular, is being supervised by the relevant judiciary and conducted with a high level of accuracy and transparency,” the statement said.

“Thus, if there are violations committed by individuals or groups, it is unacceptable to protect perpetrators by making accusations against the Army, the mother national institution that forms the backbone of peace and stability in Lebanon and the guarantor of everyone’s rights,” it added.

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

For his part, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt criticized the protest outside the Defense Ministry in his weekly editorial at PSP’s Al-Anbaa electronic newspaper.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 28, 2014, on page 1.

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Summary

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said Sheikh Omar Atrash, arrested by the Army last week, admitted he was also involved in a twin suicide attack on an Army checkpoint in Sidon last month that killed one soldier.

Atrash hails from the Bekaa Valley town of Arsal.

Edmond Fadel, the Army Intelligence director general, turned down a request sent by a delegation of the Muslim Scholars Committee to meet Atrash in prison or to allow his lawyer be present during his interrogation.

Amama said he believed Atrash was forced to make his confession, adding that he would only believe it was true if Atrash had made it in the presence of his lawyer.

More than a dozen members of the Muslim Scholars Committee protested outside the Defense Ministry Sunday, calling for the release of Atrash.


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