BEIRUT: Arab Democratic Party sources dismissed rumors Sunday that party leader Ali Eid and his son, politburo chief Rifaat Eid, had fled the country to avoid legal charges, affirming that both were still in Lebanon. News reports emerged over the weekend that both ADP figures had left Lebanon, with the daily An-Nahar claiming that the two had crossed illegal border crossings to escape to Syria, and other news websites maintaining that Rifaat alone was in the Syrian port city of Tartous. MTV quoted a security source confirming that Ali had left Lebanon for Syria, with his son trailing closely behind.
The reports were dismissed by Ali’s son, who runs a clinic in Jabal Mohsen, where the pro-Assad ADP is based. “My father is in his village, Hikr al-Daheri, where he’s been residing for six years,” Noureddine Eid told The Daily Star. The village is located on the Lebanese side of the border with Syria. “Rifaat is still in Lebanon, too.”
When asked if the politburo chief was still in Jabal Mohsen, Eid said, “Let’s just say he’s still in Lebanon.”
The rumors were also dispelled by Ali Fedda, a senior ADP official.
“These reports are just rumors, and news that Ali and Rifaat Eid have fled the country are not true,” he said.
When asked to respond to the reports over the weekend, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi told LBCI, “I have no information about this issue,” adding: “But all those who incite the tense scene [in Tripoli] should leave so its civilians can live together in peace.”
The Daily Star could not reach Rifaat Eid despite numerous attempts to contact the official. Both Fedda and Eid’s assistant cited a busy meeting schedule to explain his inaccessibility.
“We will not hold a news conference [to respond to the rumors],” Fedda said. “It’s not worth it.”
“This is not the first rumor of its kind,” he added.
This is the second time this month that the ADP chief has been accused of fleeing the country. Earlier in March Rifaat publicly denied that his father had fled to Syria after an arrest warrant was issued for him on Feb. 25 for failing to appear in court.
Rumors of Ali Eid’s escape arose for a second time after Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr issued a legal opinion demanding his indictment earlier this week, as he stands accused of helping a suspect linked to last summer’s twin car bombings in Tripoli flee Lebanon. Saqr’s conclusions could pave the way for a military trial.
The reports also emerged after a Cabinet-sanctioned security plan was devised for the city. The plan is expected to go into effect this week.
Eid has failed to show up for questioning by the military tribunal over the case on two occasions.
The prospect of Eid’s arrest has inflamed passions in Tripoli, the scene of repeated clashes between the majority Alawite Jabal Mohsen and the Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh. Figures in Bab al-Tabbaneh believe calm can only be restored once the perpetrators of the twin bombings outside the Al-Salam and Al-Taqwa mosques last August are caught and have accused the ADP of orchestrating the attack.
Rifaat Eid has reiterated on numerous occasions that the party conforms to Lebanese laws, but objects to the arrest warrant for the party leader. – With additional reporting by Dahlia Nehme