Lebanon News

Syria court gives Jumblatt, Khashan legal notice: reports

PSP leader Walid Jumblatt drives his car in Beirut. (The Daily Star/File/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: A Syrian court issued legal notices against Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt and Lebanese journalist Fares Khashan, accusing them of undermining the state’s reputation, according to reports Thursday.

Though the local LBCI TV channel reported the Lebanese Foreign Ministry had received the notices from the Criminal Court in Latakia, the ministry issued a statement denying it had received summons from Syria for Jumblatt and Khashan.

The lawsuit dates back to 2006, when Syria’s military court filed a case against Jumblatt and “others revealed by investigation,” accusing the defendants of “defaming” the state by blaming Syria for the series of bombings and assassinations in Lebanon in 2005.

At the time, there were arrest warrants out for Jumblatt, Khashan and MP Marwan Hamade.

A judicial source told The Daily Star that the notices would be ineffective in practice, given Jumblatt’s parliamentary immunity and Khashan’s absence from the country. Khashan is a Paris-based reporter for the local newspaper Al-Mustaqbal.

Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi expressed surprise over the issuance of the legal notices, “especially since the amnesty issued by the Syrian regime in 2013 included these charges,” he told a local television station, announcing that he would turn the notices back.

He said the Syrian Embassy in Lebanon had handed in the legal notices to the Lebanese Foreign Ministry, which in turn had transferred them to the Justice Ministry.

For his part, Health Minister Wael Abu Faour, a PSP official, also expressed indignation toward the notices. “It is not worth the ink it was written with, and in Syria there is no judiciary, but a criminal system, which represents the least of the regime’s evil doings,” he said in a statement.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 23, 2014, on page 3.




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