BEIRUT: Three Lebanese Army officers who were released earlier in the month on bail in the case of the May killing of a Muslim preacher and his companion were detained once again Saturday, judicial sources said.
Military Judge Riad Abu Ghida took the decision after further questioning of the three officers, the sources said.
The three officers as well as eight other soldiers were released on bail July 5 in the case of Sheikhs Ahmad Abdel-Wahed and Hussein al-Mereb who were shot dead at an army checkpoint in the north of the country on May 20. Five other soldiers remain in custody.
The release of the soldiers led to road blocks by residents of Akkar, north Lebanon, where the killing took place and where two preachers hailed from.
Akkar figures and politicians have also voiced anger over the handling of the investigation and insist that it be referred to the county’s judicial highest authority, threatening disobedience should the case remain in the hands of the Military Tribunal.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati has asked Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi to look into the possibility of transferring the case of the Akkar sheikhs' killing to the Judicial Council.
If Qortbawi recommends that the case be transferred to the Judicial Council, his proposal would have to be approved by the Cabinet in a vote before any such move is made.
Commenting on the news of the detention of the three officers, Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri praised the Military Tribunal’s decision to detain the three officers once more, saying it improved trust in the army and justice in the country.
“Hariri praised the Military Tribunal’s decision to detain once more the three officers in the case of the killing of Sheiks Mohammad Abdel-Wahed and Hussein al-Mereb in Akkar and considered it a step that boosts the trust of victims and residents of Akkar and all the Lebanese in justice and the Lebanese Army,” a statement from the Future Movement leader said.
For his part, Future parliamentary bloc leader MP Fouad Siniora said the development put things back on the right track.
“What is needed is that the investigation carry on to its completion and that the necessary steps be taken to achieve justice,” he added, according to the National News Agency.