TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Protesters rallied Friday outside Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s residence in north Lebanon, calling for the release of Islamists detained in the country’s largest prison. They also called for the release of the survivors of a recent ambush in Syria.
Amid tight security measures, over 200 protesters held black flags and posters of two men who they say survived the Syrian Army ambush late last year after they infiltrated the town of Tal Kalakh, near the border with Lebanon.
The protesters, many of whom included relatives of the Salafist fighters, demanded that Hasan Srour and Mohammad al-Rafei be released and handed over to Lebanon.
Relatives of Srour did not join Friday’s protest, saying the government was as much to blame as Mikati.
The killing of the Lebanese fighters on Nov. 30 sparked a new round of clashes in the northern city of Tripoli.
Syria has so far handed over the bodies of nine of the Lebanese fighters but no agreement was reached regarding the Salafists who were captured alive.
Meanwhile, the relatives of Islamists being detained over the 2007 battles between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese Army in the north of the country demanded speedy trials for their loved ones and urged that they be released.
Of the 180 Islamists being held at Roumieh prison, 14 were released last year following protests by the relatives.
Speaking to reporters at the rally, Sheikh Mohammad Ibrahim, who represents the families of the Islamist detainees, slammed the government, accusing it of procrastination “in finalizing the trials of the Islamists being held at Roumieh.”
“The Lebanese government is procrastinating in holding trials for the Islamist detainees for years while they held trials for Israeli collaborators in a speedy manner and released most of them,” Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim , who also represents the relatives of the Lebanese fighters, also urged the families and their supporters to join in a planned protest Sunday at the Arida border crossing to demand the release of the Lebanese fighters held there.