BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Reports of Samaha recanting confession baseless: sources

Members of Police's Information Branch storm the apartment building where former Information Minister Michel Samaha lives in Ashrafieh, Lebanon on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Lebanese judicial sources denied Tuesday local media reports that former Information Minister Michel Samaha had recanted the confession he made during police interrogation.

“If reports that Samaha withdrew his earlier statements are true, therefore the military judge would have been convinced and Samaha would have been released,” one source told The Daily Star.

“But the mere fact that the arrest warrant is still in place for Samaha is proof that the reports are baseless,” the source added.

Military Judge Riad Abu Ghida adjourned Samaha’s interrogation over his alleged role in terror plots until Thursday.

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television quoted judicial sources as saying that Samaha withdrew his testimony before Ghida Monday, claiming that he had given the statements under pressure.

Al-Manar said Samaha had confessed to transferring explosives from Syria to Lebanon with the aim of using them to prevent opponents of the Syrian regime from smuggling militants and weapons through Lebanon’s northern border, rather than to carry out a plot to destabilize the country.

However, judicial sources told The Daily Star the Al-Manar reports were unfounded, adding that Samaha’s lawyers were behind such “rumors.”

Marada movement leader MP Sleiman Franjieh said Monday Samaha had confessed to attempting to target the Free Syrian Army and the routes to smuggle arms from Lebanon to Syria, adding that his confessions were manipulated by the Information Branch for political reasons.

Youssef Finyanous, one of Samaha's lawyers, is a Marada movement member and Franjieh’s personal lawyer.

Judicial sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday that undercover agent Milad Kfouri would be summoned for questioning if need be.

Kfouri, who sources identified as having provided incriminating footage in the Samaha case, was reportedly flown outside the country just before the police raids on Samaha’s residences in Ashrafieh, Beirut, and Metn’s Khanshara-Jwar, for fear over his safety.

In his confessions before the ISF Information Branch, Samaha said Syrian President Bashar Assad had desired bomb attacks in Lebanon.

The sources said the defense attorneys have the right to demand Kfouri’s summoning but that the judge has the final say depending on what serves the probe best.

 

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