BEIRUT: Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi Friday returned the two Syrian legal notices against MP Walid Jumblatt and journalist Fares Khashan to the Foreign Ministry, saying they neither adhere to the Lebanese Constitution nor to judicial treaties between the neighboring states.
The notices violate the judiciary convention signed by Lebanon and Syria on February 25 1951, the National News Agency reported.
Article 28 of this convention states the right of the notified state to decline any legal notice that might disturb its security. Since Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt enjoys legal immunity as an MP, judicial authorities are not permitted to consider the legal notice against him. Doing that, the report explained, would disrupt the separation of powers between different Lebanese authorities, thereby violating the Lebanese Constitution.
The Syrian Embassy in Lebanon had handed in the notices to the Lebanese Foreign Ministry earlier this month, which in turn had transferred them to the Justice Ministry.
However, they had not been signed by any representative of the embassy, which undermined their credibility, Rifi explained in his letter to the Foreign Ministry today.
The two lawsuits were originally issued by the criminal court of Latakia in 2006. They accused Jumblatt and Khashan, the Paris-based reporter of Al-Mustaqbal, of “defaming” the Syrian state by blaming Syria for assassinations that occurred in Lebanon in 2005.
A judicial source had previously informed The Daily Star that the notices would be ineffective, given Jumblatt’s parliamentary immunity and Khashan’s absence from the country.
Ahmad Jabra, President of the Syrian National Coalition, expressed his solidarity with Jumblatt and Khashan thanking them for supporting the Syrian people and their “just causes,” according Anbaa Online, the website of PSP’s newspaper.
For his part, Jumblatt ridiculed the notices in a statement last Friday saying, “...I will not forget to add this lawsuit to the file of other cases; I will make a catalog out of them and distribute it to friends for free!”