BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and MP Oqab Sakr filed a series of lawsuits Monday against two media outlets for defamation and inciting sectarian sentiments after publishing “false news.”
The suits, filed by Lawyer Mohammad Matar on behalf of Hariri and Saqr, are against Al-Akhbar newspaper, its editor-in-chief, several journalists at the local daily and OTV for “defamation, insult, disseminating false news and inciting sectarian sentiments.”
Weeks ago, OTV aired audio-recordings of Saqr allegedly discussing with Syrian rebels the transfer of arms. In one of the recordings, Saqr says Hariri wants rebels to defeat troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. The recordings were also published by Al-Akhbar.
Days later, Saqr, a member of the Future Movement parliamentary bloc headed by Hariri, appeared in a news conference in Istanbul, saying his remarks were taken out of context.
He said he was only providing humanitarian aid to Syrian people, as tasked by Hariri, and aired audio recordings in which he turns down a request by rebels to provide them with arms.
But OTV and Al-Akhbar said the audio-recording Saqr presented was fabricated.
Matar did not sue the media outlets for allegedly forging the audio recordings.
There have been media reports accusing Saqr of arming Syrian opposition group with a New York Times story quoting Syrian rebels as saying that the Lebanese lawmaker was Saudi Arabia's main weapons supplier to the opposition.
General Prosecutor Hatem Madi has begun studying the case and will refer it to the appropriate courts to begin the investigation.
Madi is also examining a case against Saqr over the same recordings after a Lebanese lawyer appointed by the Syrian Embassy filed a lawsuit last week in a Beirut court against the Future Movement lawmaker, accusing him of “acts of terror,” including jeopardizing Syria’s security.
A judicial source, speaking to The Daily Star on condition of anonymity, said last week that Madi would examine the suit and choose whether to shelf it in the event it lacked documents to back up the claims or refer it to Parliament to decide on whether to lift parliamentary immunity against Saqr.
Last week, Syria issued warrants for Hariri, Saqr and Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Meqdad over the claims of providing weapons and funds to “terrorist groups” in Syria based on the controversial recordings.