BEIRUT: Lebanon’s public prosecutor Thursday requested a copy of a recent TV interview with Zghorta MP Suleiman Franijeh in which he accused President Michel Sleiman of irregularities in France.
The National News Agency said Judge Hatem Madi tasked the Central Criminal Investigation Bureau with supplying him with the recording of Franjieh’s interview with OTV television, which aired Tuesday.
Judicial sources played down the idea that the preliminary investigation would eventually lead to a full-blown court case and the prosecution of Franjieh for slandering the president.
The sources said Franjieh’s parliamentary immunity would have to be lifted if Madi finds incriminating evidence of slander in the interview tape.
The justice minister, an ally of Franjieh, would have to agree to pursue the case, the sources pointed out.
In the interview, Franjieh said the president had “painful” issues when it came to his relations with Paris, hinting that the information implicated Sleiman in irregularities and proved that there were unnamed “restrictions” on his policies.
Franjieh also said Sleiman made it to the presidency after an “international agreement” was reached over electing him as Lebanon’s head of state.
However, the president hit back Wednesday at the Marada Movement leader, challenging him to submit any such information in his possession to the judiciary.
Sleiman said he refused to “submit to any dictates or orders whatsoever” and denied that he had made commitments or promises to any party, whether local or international.
According to Franjieh, a leading figure in the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance, the president’s involvement in such alleged files force him to be politically dependent on foreign and local groups.
The Marada Movement leader, who has repeatedly voiced criticism of Sleiman, said that the president had made commitments to internal and international parties ahead of the upcoming elections in June.
He also claimed that the president did not want the March 8 coalition to win in the polls.
In a recent interview published by Al-Akhbar newspaper, Franjieh criticized Sleiman over his opposition to the Orthodox Gathering proposal agreed on by the country’s four major Christian parties, including Marada.
“France and Qatar oppose the Orthodox law and that’s why [Sleiman] is against. It’s simple,” he said.
The Orthodox proposal, based on proportional representation, stipulates each sect elects its representatives with Lebanon as a single district.
Along with Sleiman, the Future Movement, Progressive Socialist Party, and Prime Minister Najib Mikati have all rejected the proposal, arguing that it would further sectarian divisions in Lebanon.
Franjieh, a fierce supporter of the Assad regime, also said Sleiman came to power with the support of Qatar, Syria and France, and now that Syria has been weakened, “he has shown his true self, biased and against our project.”