BEIRUT: Akkar MP Khaled Daher threatened civil disobedience Sunday should the government not refer the killing of a prominent anti-Assad sheikh to the highest judicial authority in the country. Meanwhile, Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said that the killing of two Lebanese on the border with Syria over the weekend was “unacceptable,” lashing out at the Cabinet of Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
“Either the Cabinet fulfills its duty regarding the case of sheikhs Abdel-Wahed and Mohammad [Hussein] al-Mereb or it will see what it never saw, culminating in civil disobedience and the staging of a sit-in near the prime minister’s residence,” Future parliamentary bloc member Daher said, addressing a gathering in Akkar.
“From the first day, we have called for a just trial and warned that the Military Tribunal is not competent to handle the case and achieve justice,” Daher added.
Abdel-Wahed and his companion Mereb were killed at an Army checkpoint in Akkar on May 20. The Army took responsibility for the incident and formed an investigation committee.
The National Islamic Gathering in Akkar called for referring the case of Abdel-Wahed to the Justice Council.
Following the gathering’s meeting at Akkar MP Mouein Merhebi’s Tripoli residence Sunday, Daher said: “We demand that the president [Michel Sleiman], the prime minister and the Cabinet refer this case to the Justice Council to achieve justice by punishing the perpetrators and releasing the innocent.”
He added that the killing of Abdel-Wahed and his companion is a national case concerning all Lebanese, and said that addressing it properly will help alleviate tensions in Akkar, while any negligence in relation to its processing would lead to strife.
Further angering figures and residents of Akkar was last week’s release on bail of three Lebanese Army officers and eight soldiers arrested over the case. Five remain in custody. Residents of Akkar blocked main roads in the following days and armed men roamed streets.
Similar calls for referring the case to the Justice Council were made by religious scholars of Akkar, who gathered Sunday at the Muslim Endowment Department in the region, in presence of Abdel-Wahed’s brothers.
The scholars also expressed surprise over the release of the soldiers and officers who had been detained in relations to the case.
Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, which has 10 ministers in the Cabinet, opposes referring the case to the Justice Council, arguing that it should remain in the hands of the Military Tribunal. The Cabinet is to convene Monday.
In protest of the bloc’s stances, residents of the Akkar village of Munjiz blocked main roads in the village Sunday evening.
Separately, Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said that the killing of two Lebanese by Syrian shelling over the weekend was unacceptable, accusing the Cabinet of facilitating such crimes.
“The killing of two Lebanese citizens and injuring of 10 others by Syrian regime forces in North Lebanon yesterday is unacceptable,” he said on Twitter. “The silence of the Lebanese Government is even more unacceptable. It shows total disrespect for the lives of our citizens and our sovereignty.”
Two people, including an 8-year-old boy, were killed and 10 wounded Saturday by Syrian shelling in the Wadi Khaled region of the north.
The head of the Future Movement said that the least thing any government should do in this situation is lodge a complaint with Syria’s Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel-Karim Ali, if not with the Arab League and the United Nations.
“However, the Lebanese are not surprised their government doesn’t care if our citizens are killed and sovereignty violated by the Syrian regime,” Hariri explained. “In fact all Lebanese know this government was appointed to facilitate such crimes to begin with.”
But Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said that the killing of the two Lebanese happened by mistake and does not require filing a complaint.
“The killing of the two Lebanese by the Syrian forces in Wadi Khaled happened by mistake and does not require filing a complaint since there is no intentional assault,” Mansour told Tele Liban. “[Had it been intentional] we would have behaved differently.”
Startled by the shelling, a number of Wadi Khaled’s residents fled the region Saturday to distance themselves from the border with Syria. Cautious calm reigned in Wadi Khaled Sunday.
For his part, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai urged the Cabinet to protect Lebanese on borders with Syria, voicing his regret for the loss of lives which took place.
“We urge the Lebanese Cabinet to make its best effort to protect the Lebanese on border with Syria in Wadi Khaled and Akkar through the Army and its legitimate forces and to prevent border areas from becoming a corridor or a sanctuary for illegitimate arms,” said Rai in Sunday’s sermon at his summer residence in Diman.
The prelate voiced sorrow for innocent victims, saying he stands in solidarity with their families.
Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya also decried Sunday the Syrian shelling of Lebanese homes in the north of the country.
“It is imperative that the Lebanese state defend its citizens immediately and safeguard the security and stability in the area through the deployment of Lebanese soldiers and members of the police to protect citizens, particularly given that these attacks are recurrent,” Mohammad Hawshar, the party’s representative in Akkar, said in a statement.
MP Merhebi held “Assad’s forces” responsible for the shelling “as well as the Army’s leadership for not carrying out its duties of defending Lebanon’s sovereignty and confronting these large violations and [preventing] casualties.”
Amid this atmosphere, sources told The Daily Star that over the past three days Army troops have been pulling out from their posts in Akkar at night and returning in the morning.
Aoun urged the people of Akkar to embrace the Lebanese Army.
“You, your relatives and land will be exposed to danger if the Army withdraws from your district and stops being the only force responsible for preserving security along the border,” Aoun said during an annual dinner banquet held by the FPM in Chouf.
“Things there [in Akkar] could develop and spin out of control and what happened today [Sunday in Wadi Khaled] is an example,” he said.
Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, from Amal, said there is a plot to drag the people of Akkar into a conflict with the Army. “It is unacceptable that the stature of the Army be targeted,” Khalil said during a dinner in the south.