BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Judge interrogates Samaha over audio recordings

Former MP and Cabinet Minister Michel Samaha. (The Daily Star/HO)

BEIRUT: A military judge Wednesday interrogated former Information Minister Michel Samaha over recordings of conversations between him and a political advisor to Syrian President Bashar Assad regarding terror attacks in Lebanon.

Samaha – wearing blue jeans and a blue, red, white and yellow striped t-shirt – was brought from prison to the office of Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghayda at Beirut’s Justice Palace around midday.

Following the nearly two-hour session, Samaha was allowed to see his wife and three daughters briefly, who were seen coming out of the meeting in tears.

“This is a top secret investigation,” a source close to the probe told The Daily Star. “The [Samaha-Abu Ghayda] session was very important.”

The conversations were obtained from cellphone recordings that Samaha had downloaded onto his computer, according to judicial sources.

Last week, judicial sources said an analysis of recordings of several cellphone conversations between Samaha and Bouthaina Shaaban – Assad’s political and media advisor – were transferred to Abu Ghayda for examination.

Samaha, who has maintained close ties with the Syrian regime for decades, was charged in August with transporting explosives from Syria into Lebanon to use them in terrorist attacks aimed at assassinating religious and political figures.

A high-level security source said Monday that the recordings contained evidence incriminating Shaaban in the case.

“The recordings confirm Bouthaina Shaaban had knowledge of Samaha’s security and political activity as well as the tasks that were assigned to him,” the source said.

Shaaban has dismissed accusations of her involvement in the Samaha case.

The source close to the investigation said Samaha gave Abu Ghayda "clear-cut answers.” However, he refused to confirm or deny whether the two-time former information minister confessed that Shaaban knew about the bombs.

He said Abu Ghayda will refer Samaha’s latest statement to Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr for his recommendations and then decide whether or not to charge Shaaban.

 

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