BEIRUT: A military judge filed Thursday charges against Maher Meqdad, the spokesman for the clan behind a string of kidnappings of Syrian nationals and a Turkish businessman in August. Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr also charged Meqdad with “forming an armed group to hit the prestige of the state, kidnap citizens and threaten to kill them as well as possession of unlicensed weapons and explosives.”
Saqr pressed similar charges against Hasan Meqdad and Taher Sultan.
The magistrate referred the three men to Military Investigative Judge Imad Zein with a recommendation to issue arrest warrants against them.
Zein issued Wednesday arrest warrants for five members of the Meqdad clan after they were charged with similar counts.
Maher Meqdad was arrested last week by Lebanese Army Intelligence during a raid on his house in the Beirut southern suburb of Haret Hreik.
The Meqdads snatched more than two dozen Syrian nationals in addition to a Turkish businessman following the Aug. 13 kidnapping of kinsman Hassan Meqdad in Damascus.
They released most of the hostages soon after, but the Turkish national and four Syrians were held longer – accused of being members of the rebel Free Syrian Army.
Under pressure from the Lebanese Army, the clan released Turkish businessman Aydin Tufan Tekin on Sept. 11, nearly a month after it kidnapped him.
Two days later, Turkish citizen Abdulbasit Arslan was handed over to General Security by Al-Mukhtar Al-Thaqafi, the armed group that held him hostage for almost a month.
The remaining four Syrian hostages were also released in a Lebanese Army raid last week.
The Meqdads have said they trust Lebanese authorities handling the case of their kidnapped relative.
Separately, head of the General Security Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim discussed with Ankara’s ambassador to Beirut the issue of Lebanese pilgrims snatched by rebels in Aleppo in May.
The two men discussed efforts undertaken by Ankara in this regard, the National News Agency said.
Competing efforts to secure the release of the 10 Lebanese pilgrims still held in Syria have become a tug-of-war, pitting the government against Sunni figures and politicians from the March 14 coalition.
Both sides claim that they are working tirelessly to win the release of the remaining 10 pilgrims, and have accused each other of hampering talks with the armed Syrian opposition faction, which has been holding the pilgrims in the Syrian town of Azaz near the border with Turkey.
Eleven Shiite Lebanese men were abducted near Aleppo in May while returning from a pilgrimage in Iran.