BEIRUT: A Lebanese prisoner who has been in Syrian custody for the past 27 years was released three months ago, The Daily Star learned Tuesday, giving hope for the hundreds of others who were kidnapped during the Civil War.
Yaacoub Shamoun was kidnapped in July 1985 because of his membership of the Kataeb party, Ghazi Aad, president of NGO Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile (S.O.L.I.D.E) told The Daily Star.
“He was released three months ago but he was afraid to talk to anyone,” Aad said. “Afraid someone would target him ... maybe people in support of the regime in Syria.”
He was sentenced to life with hard labor.
Upon his abduction, Shamoun was held in Saydneya, north of Damascus, along with five other Lebanese. They were then dispersed in other prisons. He was released from a prison in the eastern region of Hasaka.
Aad said Shamoun’s file was transferred to the civil court, making it easier for his family to hire a lawyer and finalize his case.
“This gives us hope that there are Lebanese in Syrian prisons who are still alive,” the activist said.
An estimated 600 Lebanese were kidnapped during the Lebanese Civil War and held in Syrian prisons, but Aad said that Shamoun and the five others were not listed as missing in their files.
“There might be even more than we believe,” Aad said.
Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi was not immediately available for comment.
Many activists have criticized the government for inaction with regards to Lebanese prisoners in Syria. During a sit-in held by S.O.L.I.D.E and relatives of prisoners last year, one of many held for the cause in front of the Grand Serail, Qortbawi promised protesters he would write a decree to establish the long-awaited national commission for the victims of enforced disappearance.