BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk promised in comments published Tuesday to resolve the cases of Saudi detainees in Lebanon.
“We will work on finding a solution to the file of Saudi detainees, including those accused of being involved in the Nahr al-Bared battles,” Machnouk told Al-Watan Saudi daily.
The minister was referring to Islamist prisoners arrested for alleged involvement in the Nahr al-Bared clashes of 2007 between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam.
Around 527 men, some holding Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian and Saudi citizenship, are awaiting trial in the case.
Machnouk said that the file of the Saudi detainees was separated from those of other nationalities with the help of the Judicial Council and that the authorities were working on finalizing their trials as soon as possible.
“Maybe late, we would hand them over to Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The minister added that the Saudi Kingdom could then follow up on implementing the sentences against them.
A judicial source told The Daily Star Monday that Lebanon would extradite Saudi national Abdullah Ben Mohammad Bishi, who has served his full sentence for his role as Fatah al-Islam's jurisprudent leader during the 2007 clashes.
The source said that Bishi’s seven-year sentence would come to a close at the end of May.
Under Lebanese law, a prisoner is deported to their home country after completing their full jail term.
Machnouk also slammed Hezbollah’s arms and said efforts should focus on preventing the use of such weapons for political purposes.
“The next phase will focus on a deep discussion in the government on how to remove the so-called resistance arms from the Lebanese political equation and prevent using them as a means of political pressure,” he said.
He described Hezbollah’s arms as “a regional weapon that the Lebanese do not have the decision to use.”
“[By regional,] I mean Iran,” the minister said. “This is a fact, I am not making that up.”
The minister also reiterated his call for Saudi tourists to visit Lebanon, offering “serious guarantees” that they would be safe in the country.
“I guarantee that the political and security atmosphere in the country are convenient for Saudis to come to Lebanon and enjoy security and stability,” he said.
“Now, you have [school and university] exams, but after the Ramadan holidays, come and try us,” he said.