Lebanon News

Interrogation ongoing with Atrash: Qortbawi

Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi arrives to attend a Cabinet session at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi said Tuesday that the Military Intelligence is continuing its interrogation of a Sunni preacher in connection with recent bombing attacks in Lebanon.

”Interrogation with [Omar Atrash] will continue and if there was no evidence that he was involved in any security act, he will be released,” Qortbawi told the Voice of Lebanon radio station.

He stressed that the interrogation, conducted by Lebanese Army Intelligence under the supervision of Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr, remained secret.

“No one but the interrogator and the judge supervising the investigation know what is going on,” Qortbawi said.

“Therefore, everyone must wait for the outcome [of the interrogation] and should stay away from speculation and avoid leaks,” he added.

Atrash 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.

The preacher also admitted he was involved in twin suicide attacks that targeted two Army checkpoints east and north of the southern city of Sidon last month.

A Lebanese soldier was killed and three others were wounded in the December attacks in Majdalyoun, east of Sidon, and the Awali Bridge at the northern entrance to the city.

Lebanon has witnessed a spate of bombing attacks, mainly targeting areas where Hezbollah enjoys strong support.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross denied issuing comments about the case.

"There have been confusing and wrong information circulating in some media stating that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited Sheikh Al Atrash and confirmed that he was not subjected to torture,” the organization said in a statement.

“The ICRC would like to clarify that no such statement was done by the ICRC," it added.

ICRC acknowledged it had visited Atrash as part of “periodical checkups of detainees" across Lebanon but said the humanitarian institution does not make its observations public.

"The fact that it visits places of detention in Lebanon and elsewhere in the world, does not mean an acknowledgement that the conditions of detention or treatment of detainees comply with international standards," the ICRC said.

It said findings and recommendations are shared with the relevant authorities through secret, bilateral talks.





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