Lebanon News

Mawlawi, newly freed: I confessed under duress

BEIRUT: Islamist Shadi Mawlawi, whose arrest triggered deadly clashes in northern Lebanon last week, arrived in Tripoli following his release on bail Tuesday.

"Yes, yes, I confessed, but only under psychological pressure," Mawlawi told reporters upon arrival at Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi's Social Services Center in Tripoli, north Lebanon -- the very location where he was arrested.

Mawlawi, who wore a black headband bearing the Muslim profession of faith, insisted that his confession was null and void due to the manner in which it was extracted.

"I confessed to many things but only under pressure and any person would have confessed to those things when placed under such psychological pressure ... I later disavowed my confession."

Soon after Military Investigating Judge Nabil Wehbi approved his release, Mawlawi was whisked away from the Beirut Military Court in a dark Peugot belonging to Safadi.

Following his appearance at Safadi's Social Services Center, Mawlawi met with Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the latter's private residence in Tripoli.

General Security personnel dressed in civilian clothes lured Mawlawi on May 12 to Safadi's center in Tripoli with promises of medical care, only to arrest him.

Safadi and other government officials had denounced the way Mawlawi was apprehended.

Wehbi, following Militay Prosecutor Saqr Saqr’s recommendation, ruled Tuesday that Mawlawi should be released on LL500,000 bail, but banned the 25-year-old Islamist from leaving the country.

Despite the new development, organizers of a sit-in at Tripoli's Nour Square demanding Mawlawi's release pledged that the sit-in would continue until the release of at least 123 Islamist prisoners who have been detained for years without charge.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel denied that Mawlawi's release was linked to political pressure, and said the decision was purely "judicial."

Last week, Saqr charged Mawlawi and five other Lebanese suspects with belonging to an “armed terrorist organization intending to carry out crimes against people as well as public and private institutions.”

Mawlawi’s arrest on May 12 sparked gunbattles in Tripoli, where tension has been simmering over the 15-month-old uprising against the Assad regime.

At least 11 people were killed in three days of clashes between residents of Bab al-Tabbaneh who support the Syrian revolution and others in nearby Jabal Mohsen who back the Assad regime.

Judicial sources had said Mawlawi’s case was built on the suspicion that he was a link between Abdel-Aziz Atiyeh, a Qatari who donated money to rebels in Syria, and the man who received the money and sent it to the rebels.

Other judicial sources said Tuesday that an investigative probe showed that Mawlawi had no links to Al-Qaeda.

"It turns out that the accusations leveled against Mawlawi ... were false," one source told The Daily Star. --With additional reporting by Antoine Amrieh in Tripoli.





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