Lebanon News

Samaha probe postponed over objections

Former Lebanese Cabinet minister Michel Samaha. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: The interrogation of former Information Minister Michel Samaha over his alleged role in a terror plot was cut short Thursday after protests by his defense attorney. Judicial sources told The Daily Star that Samaha’s second round of interrogation ended less than an hour after the session convened at around 11:30 a.m.

The sources said Military Judge Riad Abu Ghida postponed the session after Samaha’s attorney Malek Sayyed protested over what he said was the failure to implement Article 77 of the Criminal Procedural Law.

Article 77 stipulates that the “investigating judge must take into account the principle of the defendant’s free will during interrogation and ensure that the defendant’s testimony is not the result of psychological pressure or duress.”

Abu Ghida postponed the session until after Eid al-Fitr, but no specific date was set.

The sources said that Abu Ghida argued that Sayyed and Samaha’s other attorney, Youssef Finyanous – who did not attend Thursday’s session – should have made this objection during the first session.

But Abu Ghida referred Sayyed’s proposal to the military prosecution to make its recommendations.

Wearing blue jeans and a striped T-shirt, Samaha looked upbeat when he arrived at Abu Ghida’s office before midday. He was brought from the Reihanieh Military Police prison in Mount Lebanon.

On Monday, Abu Ghida probed Samaha who, along with a high-ranking Syrian army official, has been charged in a terror plot to destabilize Lebanon.

In his confession to the Internal Security Forces Information Branch shortly after his arrest on Aug. 10, Samaha said Syrian President Bashar Assad wanted bomb attacks in Lebanon, according to sources.

An undercover agent, identified as Milad Kfouri by security sources, provided incriminating footage in the Samaha case. Kfouri reportedly left Lebanon sometime after the police raid on Samaha’s residences in Beirut’s Ashrafieh and Metn’s Khanshara-Jwar, over fears for his safety.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi overturned Acting State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud’s decision to publicly display explosive devices and other items confiscated from Samaha by the ISF. Qortbawi did not elaborate on his decision.

Earlier Thursday, Hammoud had ordered the ISF to display the confiscated items to the media.

Security sources said that among the confiscated items were 24 explosive devices amounting to 110 kilograms.

According to the sources, four of the explosive devices weighed 20 kilograms each and the remaining 20 explosives weigh between half and 1 kilogram each.

“The small explosive devices are sticking bombs that could be placed under a car,” the sources said.

Some 20 detonating devices were also confiscated by the ISF.

The ISF sources said that most of the explosive devices are similar to the devices used in the assassinations of Samir Kassir and George Hawi and the assassination attempt of journalist May Chidiac.

Security sources added that a sample of the devices retrieved has been sent abroad for examination.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 17, 2012, on page 4.




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