BEIRUT: MP Walid Jumblatt criticized Lebanon’s judiciary for delaying the trials of the Islamist militants detained in Roumieh, stressing on the need to speed up the trials and avoid engaging in an exchange deals with extremist groups.
“Further suspending the trials violates the concept and principles of justice,” Jumblatt told the Progressive Socialist Party’s electronic magazine in his weekly statement published Monday.
“Any suspect has the right to attend legal trials before the arrival of the legal limits,” he said. “And it is inappropriate to keep the detainees without allowing them to know their destiny or future.
Jumblatt highlighted the link between the rise of Islamist fundamentalist groups in the region and the need to finalize the detainees’ case in Lebanon’s judiciary.
Criticizing the judiciary’s slowness in making decisions concerning the detainees, Jumblatt said the excuse that had been often used, the inability to transport the detainees from Roumieh’s prison to the courts at Beirut’s Justice Palace, was no longer valid.
“The court room [in Roumieh] has been completed long months ago, but has never since been used, not for one single time.
“So how can this latency be justified? Who is benefiting from this prolonged delay?” he wondered.
Confirming his opposition to any deal that exchanges the Army’s kidnapped soldiers for the Islamists held in Roumieh, Jumblatt said such a move could have dangerous repercussions in the future.
“It will be a precedent, that would pave the way for similar scenarios to occur in the future,” he said, warning against allowing extremist groups to use the kidnapping of soldiers as a successful tactic.
“This is apart from its side effects on the security forces and military institution’s morale,” he added.
Jumblatt had told As-Safir newspaper in remarks published Monday that Lebanon would have been spared a crisis if judicial authorities had not delayed the trials of these prisoners.
“Why the procrastination and reluctance to conduct a fair trial, taking into account the political circumstances that are completely different [now] after ISIS reached the border,” he told As-Safir.
Jihadists are holding at least 23 soldiers and policemen captive after the Nusra Front released five hostages Sunday.
The security personnel – from the Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces – have been held captive by Nusra Front and ISIS since last month’s deadly gunbattles with the Lebanese Army in Arsal.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam has announced the formation of an emergency cell to tackle the hostages’ issue. The cell, made up of senior security and political officials, held its first meeting Sunday.
Political sources, speaking to The Daily Star, described as “very significant” the meeting held in the presence of Magistrate Jean Fahed, the head of the Higher Judicial Council who oversees the trials of Islamist prisoners in Roumieh.
Fahed’s attendance, the source said, indicated the government’s willingness to seek out his opinion, as the release of the prisoners tops the militants’ demands.
During the meeting, Fahed said the trials were underway, and 22,000 out of the 36,000 total charges pressed against Islamist detainees had been processed, with some acquittals.
The sources said discussions focused on finding a “legal exit” in which Lebanon could release some Roumieh prisoners inconspicuously, in a manner that would not suggest a connection with the case of the captured soldiers.
The officials were expressly looking into releasing detainees who had not been charged, the sources said.