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Mikati: Samaha confessed without coercion

Prime Minister Najib Mikati, left, speaks with Youth and Sports Minister Faisal Karami during a Cabinet session at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: Former Minister Michel Samaha’s confession of plotting terror attacks in Lebanon was made without pressure, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said in comments published Monday.

“[State Prosecutor Samir] Hammoud, after viewing Samaha's confessions, met with him privately and asked whether he was of sound mind to which Samaha responded yes. He then asked him whether he had been under pressure to say what was attributed to him and [Samaha] denied this,” Mikati told As-Safir newspaper.

According to Mikati, Samaha said security agencies did not deny him his medications and that he had brought them with him following his arrest.

Last month Samaha's attorneys claimed the former two-time minister made his confessions under duress, citing a failure to implement Article 77 of the criminal Procedural Law which stipulates that the investigative judge must take into account the defendant’s free will during interrogation and ensure that the defendant’s testimony is not the result of psychological pressure or duress.

However, the military prosecutor’s office and Investigative Judge Abu Ghida rejected the defense team’s requests that Samaha be allowed to retract his testimony.

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 security sources.

Samaha, who is close to the Syrian government, has been charged with plotting to carry out terrorist attacks in the country and assassinations of religious and political figures.

The accusations are also directed at the head of Syria’s Intelligence Gen. Ali Mamlouk and another Syrian army officer.

Turning to the effects of the Syria crisis on Lebanon, the prime minister also defended his stance against Damascus’ violations of Lebanon’s border, saying: “We should note whenever Syrian violations occur for the sake of our credibility.”

“Objecting to these violations places us in a stronger position when we raise our voice against Israeli violations but we should differentiate between Israel, the enemy, and the sisterly Syrian people,” he added.

Earlier this month, Mikati asked Lebanon’s Ambassador to Damascus Michel Khoury to send a letter to Syria’s Foreign Ministry to complain about “the continuous shelling of Lebanese border towns from nearby Syrian military bases.”

As for the demand by the March 14 coalition to expel the Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon, Mikati said this was out of the question.

Asked about MP Walid Jumblatt’s possible return to the March 14 coalition, Mikati said he was not concerned, noting that the Progressive Socialist Party leader was aware of the sensitivity of the domestic situation and that he would not risk it by taking such a step.

In a Facebook post Monday, Mikati also said he would not resign and said the government would remain in place, barring a decision by its members to dissolve the body.

“I will not resign and therefore the government will stay until the next parliamentary elections unless an exceptional development takes place in which the components of the Cabinet agree on the resignation of the current one and the formation of another one based on a prior understanding,” Mikati said in a Facebook post Monday.

In a separate post on the micro-blogging site Twitter, Mikati said he had abandoned the idea of resigning, “which used to come to mind from time to time.”

 

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