BEIRUT: Politicians and religious figures from rival March 14 and March 8 political camps expressed opposing reactions Friday to Thursday’s arrest of former Information Minister Michel Samaha by the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch.
Mustafa Hamdan, an ex-security chief of former President Emile Lahoud, who was detained for four years between 2005 and 2009 on suspicions of being involved in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, said that accusations against Samaha mean the crisis in Syria has now moved to Lebanon.
“I call on the national forces to be ready and get prepared, because the attack in Syria [against the regime] has also started in Lebanon today,” said Hamdan.
Speaking after his meeting with Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun Friday, Hamdan said that Samaha’s allies will prepare a proper response to his detention.
“We know how and when the proper response will take place,” he said.
A unit from the ISF Information Branch raided Samaha’s residence in Khanshara-Jwar in Metn Thursday morning, detaining the former minister and transferring him to the ISF headquarters in Beirut for interrogation.
Hamdan described Samaha’s detention as a “kidnapping,” saying that the abduction of 11 Lebanese pilgrims in Syria and that of Samaha have the same intention but were carried out by different individuals.
“The kidnapper of the 11 pilgrims in Syria is Abu Ibrahim, and in Lebanon the kidnapper is Wissam al-Hasan, [head of the Information Branch],” he said.
FPM officials also criticized the way in which Samaha was detained and said the Information Branch of the ISF is politicized and does not have the legitimacy to carry out such interrogations.
“The leaks to the media on the case of the former minister’s detention were modified, and the security unit that is carrying out the investigation is politicized and not comfortable,” FPM official and Culture Minister Gaby Layyoun said in an interview.
Bishop Issam Darwish of the Archbishopric in Zahle also denounced the way Samaha was detained Thursday.
“It does not suit a security force whose legitimacy is in doubt to act in this barbaric way with an individual who served Lebanon for a long time in different posts,” said Darwish.
Kataeb MP Nadim Gemayel said that the timing of Samaha’s arrest came as a shock to all Lebanese.
“If the accusations are proven against him, it means Syria wants the situation in Lebanon to explode,” he said. He also criticized the probe leaks to the media, saying that such leaks would only harm the investigation.
March 14 officials hailed what they called “an achievement” by the ISF for thwarting the alleged plots in which Samaha is suspected of being involved.