Lebanon News

Death penalty sought for 10 over Tripoli attacks

File - Charred cars are seen in front of the Salam Mosque in Tripoli, Friday, Aug. 23, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s military investigative judge Monday sought the death penalty for 10 suspects tied to last year’s bombings in the northern city of Tripoli, including a Syrian intelligence officer.

In his indictment regarding the Aug. 23 double car bombing, Judge Riad Abu Ghayda requested the death penalty for eight Lebanese nationals as well as Syrian Intelligence officer Capt. Mohammad Ali and Khodr al-Ayrouni.

The Lebanese were identified as Sheikh Ahmad Gharib, Mustafa Houri, Hayyan Ramadan, Youssef Diab, Khodr Shdoud, Ahmad Merhi, Salman Asaad and Nasser Joban.

The judge also recommended a three-year sentence for the head of the Arab Democratic Party and former MP Ali Eid, a prominent pro-Assad figure in Tripoli, along with his driver Ahmad Ali, Samir Hammoud and Shehada Shdoud.

Eid was accused of aiding Merhi to flee to Syria with the help of his driver. The Alawite figure is also accused of asking Shdoud to help Sukaynah Ismail flee.

Ismail accompanied the two people who drove the explosive-rigged vehicles from Syria into Lebanon along with two children.

The indictment cites the confessions of Gharib and Houri saying that Syrian intelligence planned the bombings and recruited Ali, the Syrian officer, as well as Gharib and Hayyan to carry out the attacks.

The judge said that the detained suspects also confessed that two car bombings were intended to assassinate political and religious figures, namely Salafist Sheikh Salem al-Rafei, Justice Minister and former chief of police Ashraf Rifi, Future MP Khaled Daher, former Future MP Mustafa Alloush and retired Brig. Gen. Amid Hammoud.

The plan also stipulated that additional car bombs should target any protests in response to the original attack, which Abu Ghayda said killed 51 people and wounded over 300.

Gharib planned the attacks by meeting with the Syrian officer and carefully studying the location of Al-Taqwa Mosque and its interior, including the spot where the preacher usually stands. The two also discussed the transportation of the explosives-rigged vehicle from Syria’s Tartous to Tripoli.

Gharib also recruited Houri and tasked him with monitoring political and religious figures, given his profession as a journalist. He allegedly asked Houri to recruit someone to assassinate the former brigadier general in return for $10,000 and another person to park the vehicle outside al-Taqwa mosque.

The indictment noted that Syrian intelligence also recruited Hayyan from the Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen. Hayyan, in turn, recruited Diab, Merhi, Asaad and Shdoud to carry out the attacks.

Diab and Shdoud parked an explosives-rigged vehicle outside Al-Salam Mosque and detonated it before fleeing on a motorcycle while Merhi and Asaad carried out the attack against Al-Taqwa mosque.

Abu Ghayda exonerated Hashem Minqara, Anas Hamze and Hasan Jaafar, citing lack of evidence.

Minqara, the head of a pro-Assad Islamist group in Lebanon, was briefly detained last year and charged with withholding information about the Tripoli cell’s terrorist activities.

Abu Ghayda referred the case to the Military Tribunal.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 06, 2014, on page 3.




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