BEIRUT: Internal Security Forces Saturday defended its administration of Roumieh Prison after inmates placed conditions on police investigating a crime case inside the facility, saying its main concern was inmates’ security.
In a statement released by the ISF General Directorate, the security agency said police base their approach in administering and guarding prisons “on preserving the security and rights of the inmates and have them carry out their legal obligations knowing the tense conditions in prisons.”
The ISF’s remarks came in response to what it said was media reports that Islamist inmates in Roumieh Prison are placing conditions on allowing a judge to interrogate eight suspects accused of killing a fellow prisoner.
Police said “everyone recognizes the reality of prisons in Lebanon.” They added that prisoners did not dictate their decisions, and that previous decisions to use force proved that prisoners did not control policy.
Eight Fatah al-Islam inmates peacefully turned themselves in to police Friday over the alleged murder of Palestinian prisoner, Ghassan Qindaqli, who was found hanging in his cell at the prison’s Bloc B on Jan. 18.
The deceased was serving a life sentence on multiple counts of murder and other drug-related offences in Lebanon's largest prison.
The men turned themselves in following pressure from security officials and the committee of the families of Islamist inmates in Roumieh in order to avoid bloodshed after the ISF and the Army threatened to launch a joint raid on Bloc C.
The security forces gave the inmates a 48-hour deadline to hand over the suspects.
Security sources told The Daily Star Friday that inmates agreed hand over the prisoners on condition that interrogation takes place inside the bloc where most of Fatah al-Islam prisoners are held.
Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr issued an indictment against the eight men for the premeditated murder of Qindaqli. The men turned themselves in promptly afterward.
Saqr also charged three Gendarmerie prison guards with “negligence of duty.”
A source inside the prison said the judge presiding over Qindaqli’s case collected 25 testimonies from prisoners who currently live in fear of armed Islamist inmates at Roumieh. Police are to transfer these prisoners to another facility, the sources added.
Islamist inmates who have gone on hunger strike and carried out several riots throughout the years have imposed somewhat of a de facto rule in Bloc B.
Media reports said Saturday that Saqr has handed over the case to Investigative Judge Riyad Abu Ghayda.