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Sayyed admits returning from Syria in Samaha’s car

Jamil Sayyed speaks during a press conference in Beirut, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Former General Security chief Jamil al-Sayyed confirmed to a military judge Tuesday that he was inside the vehicle of former Minister Michel Samaha during a trip from Damascus to Beirut last month.

However, he told the judiciary he was “not concerned” with the explosives his ally transported in his car.

First Military Judge Riad Abu Ghayda heard the testimony of Sayyed as part of the investigation into the case of Samaha, who was charged last month with plotting terror attacks.

Sayyed testified regarding the extent of his knowledge, if any, of the transportation of explosives into Lebanon by Samaha last month.

Judicial sources said Sayyed admitted he had been in Samaha’s car during a ride back to Beirut after the former security chief had paid condolences in Damascus following massive bombings that targeted a security building.

But the sources added that while it was confirmed that Sayyed had been in the car that carried the explosives, his knowledge about the presence of the explosives could not be verified yet.

The sources added that proving that Sayyed knew about the explosives “needs more examination in order to acquire clear-cut evidence.”

“From the beginning, Sayyed’s knowledge of the explosives could not be confirmed,” said one judicial source. “Had there been clear-cut evidence that he knew about the explosives his house would have been raided and he would have been immediately arrested similar to what happened with Samaha.”

The judicial sources said Sayyed also gave testimony regarding recordings found in Samaha’s car in which the former security general is quoted as saying that Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt “should be ... killed.”

The hearing session, which lasted from 1:20 p.m until 2:35 p.m., took place at Abu Ghayda’s office in Beirut.

Sayyed’s lawyer Sakhr al-Hashem said his client gave his testimony as a witness in the case, adding that there was no decision to arrest him.

Sayyed said at his residence in Beirut that he told Abu Ghayda about his presence inside Samaha’s vehicle “on that day”; implicitly admitting he actually rode the car that carried the explosives.

“On that day, I was in Damascus with former minister Michel Samaha to offer condolences for events that took place there and as a witness on that day, I informed the judiciary of the details,” Sayyed said.

“I cannot confirm whether minister Samaha used me as cover or involved me [in the court proceedings against him] but his personality gives the impression that he is peaceable and would not do such things.”

“I will not blame him in the current circumstances we are in,” he added. “I’ll reprimand him later, maybe.” Sayyed has strongly condemned Samaha’s detention and was among the very first officials to arrive at Samaha’s residence in Beirut upon news of his arrest on Aug. 10. Sayyed’s son, Malek, is one of the attorneys defending Samaha.

Sayyed has since unleashed blistering attacks against Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi and ISF Information Branch head Brig. Gen. Wissam Hasan. Rifi and Hasan have been praised for playing a leading role in uncovering the bomb and assassination plot.

Samaha, who is close to Syrian President Bashar Assad, was charged in August with plotting to carry out terrorist attacks in Lebanon as well as assassinations of religious and political figures. He was also accused of transporting explosives into the country from Syria.

In his confession to the ISF Information Branch shortly after his arrest on Aug. 10, Samaha was recorded as saying Assad wanted bomb attacks in Lebanon.

Judicial sources, meanwhile, said Abu Ghayda would pursue investigations in a bid to issue summons against the head of Syria’s National Security bureau Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk and another Syrian security official known as “Colonel Adnan” who are charged with being Samaha’s partners in the crime.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 19, 2012, on page 1.

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