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Lebanon News

Judge resumes interrogation of Samaha over terror plots

  • Former Lebanese Cabinet minister Michel Samaha. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghayda resumed the interrogation of former Minister Michel Samaha Tuesday over his involvement in terror plots.

Following the conclusion of the interrogation session, which took place in the presence of one of Samaha's lawyers, the two-time information minister briefly met with his family.

The session was dedicated in part to the security services’ recent acquisition of “incriminating evidence” that ex-General Security head Maj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed accompanied Samaha when he transported explosives from Syria to Lebanon, a senior security source said Monday.

DNA tests of samples from the seats of Samaha’s car proved Sayyed was in the vehicle during the trip, the source told The Daily Star.

In a news conference Tuesday, Sayyed said that his lack of involvement in Samaha’s case had been corroborated by Samaha himself during an interrogation session in August.

“Samaha said that [I] was not informed at any time or place inside or outside [of Lebanon] or in my trips from Syria to Lebanon about the case,” Sayyed said.

He added that Samaha’s statement during the session came in response to an exchange initiated by Samaha’s lawyer regarding media leaks claiming that Sayyed was with Samaha when the explosives were handed to Milad Kfouri.

Samaha sought to use Kfouri to execute the plot, but Kfouri alerted the Internal Security Forces Information Branch following a meeting with Samaha to plan the killings and identify the targets. He was then equipped with a wire and a microphone by the security services so as to record his subsequent meetings with Samaha.

Kfouri has reportedly been spirited out of the country for his safety.

Samaha, who is close to the Syrian government, has been charged with plotting to carry out terrorist attacks in the country, as well as assassinate religious and political figures. Also accused is head of Syria’s Intelligence Gen. Ali Mamlouk and another Syrian army officer. Samaha is also charged with transporting explosives from Syria into Lebanon.

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.

Speaking to The Daily Star Monday, Sayyed refused to deny or confirm the report that he had been in the car with Samaha. He said he was going to wait until his meeting with Abu Ghayda before addressing the issue, while maintaining that the accusations were politically motivated.

“This is the fourth time they [Rifi and Hasan] have tried to drag my name into the Samaha case,” Sayyed told The Daily Star.

“I have repeatedly called on them to submit the information they have to the judiciary rather than resort to press leaks,” he added.

Sayyed was one of four high-ranking, pro-Syrian generals arrested in 2005 in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The four were released nearly four years later without having been charged.

During his press conference, Sayyed slammed the media leaks and accused both Rifi and head of General Security Maj. Gen. Wisam Hasan of being behind them.

“Both Rifi and Hasan should be summoned for questioning over the leaks,” he said.

He also said that the mere hint that he was in the car with Samaha served to insinuate that he had something to do with transporting the explosives.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati and head of Internal Security Forces Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi met earlier Tuesday to discuss Sayyed’s case.

 
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