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Hariri on Syria arrest warrants: Assad a monster

In this June 12, 2009 file photo, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaks during an interview at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Lebanon. (Grace Kassab/The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri described Wednesday as a “monster” Syrian President Bashar Assad after Damascus issued arrest warrants for him and a lawmaker in his parliamentary bloc for allegedly arming and funding Syrian rebels.

"Bashar al-Assad has all the characteristics of a monster,” Hariri said in a statement, adding that the embattled leader has “lost moral, humanitarian and political authority [to rule] and he will sooner or later stand before the justice wanted by the Syrian people.”

His response came a day after Syria issued arrests warrants for him, MP Oqab Saqr, a member in Hariri’s parliamentary bloc, and Syrian opposition member Louay Meqdad.

A judicial source said Wednesday that Lebanon would likely ignore the warrants.

“The prosecutor’s office will examine the legality of the warrants today, but will likely ignore responding to the request or will refer it back to Damascus,” one judicial source told The Daily Star, pointing to the lack of evidence in the case.

"Both Hariri and Saqr enjoy parliamentary immunity and therefore cannot be pursued,” the source added.

Syria issued arrest warrants Tuesday for Hariri, Saqr and Meqdad over charges of providing weapons and funds for “terrorist groups” in Syria.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said the Interpol’s office at the Internal Security Forces received the warrants at midday Tuesday, adding that copies had been sent to all Arab states.

The move comes almost two weeks after a Lebanese television station aired audio recordings of Saqr allegedly discussing supplying Syrian rebels with arms and conveying Hariri’s hope that the opposition defeats the Syrian Army.

Saqr, however, strongly denies having sent rebels weapons, saying his quotes were doctored. He said that Hariri – the Future Movement’s leader – had tasked him only with providing humanitarian aid to the Syrian people.

Commenting on the warrant, Saqr said Tuesday he considered it a badge of honor to be on “the list of those wanted by the regime of criminality.”

The move also comes a day after Lebanon’s Military Prosecutor called for three Syrian officials to be summoned over their role in the terror plot to destabilize Lebanon allegedly involving former Information Minister Michel Samaha.

Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr asked Investigative Judge Riyad Abu Ghida to call in for questioning two Syrian officers charged in the plot to carry out attacks in Lebanon

Syrian National Security Bureau head Ali Mamlouk and another officer, identified as Brig. Gen. Adnan, are charged with plotting a terror attack with Samaha, who was arrested in August at his summer house in Khenchara.

Saqr also asked Abu Ghida to summon Buthaina Shaaban, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s senior adviser, to testify as a witness in the Samaha case.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea also criticized Wednesday Syria for issuing the warrants.

“After all that is going on in Syria, Assad and his aides have lost their right to claim any legitimacy that entitles them to issue arrest warrants,” Geagea said in a statement.

 

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