BEIRUT: MP Butros Harb said Tuesday he would file a lawsuit against General Prosecutor Hatem Madi for abusing his power to obstruct legal proceedings in the case of an assassination attempt against him.
“I announce that I will file a lawsuit against Judge Hatem Madi for influencing judges in favor of a suspect and for abusing his power to disrupt the implementation of laws,” Harb told a news conference at his house in Hazmieh.
The lawmaker said he would make an example out of Madi but emphasized his remarks were not targeting the judiciary.
Shortly after Harb’s remarks, Madi said he would respond in a “civilized and legal manner,” without using insults.
“I do not use insults because I was raised with good manners, and if I decide to respond, I will do so in a civilized and legal manner,” he said in a statement.
Harb said he asked Speaker Nabih Berri to hold a parliamentary session to vote on lifting his parliamentary immunity in order to be able to confront Madi.
Madi asked Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi in a memo Monday that Harb’s parliamentary immunity be lifted for offending the judiciary and President Michel Sleiman.
In recent statements, Harb had thanked Sleiman for intervening in his case, allowing charges to be made against the suspect in the attempt on his life, and said the president’s move thwarted an attempt by some judicial bodies collaborating with Hezbollah.
Harb’s remarks came after Hezbollah member Mahmoud Hayek was charged on Feb. 1 with the July 2012 attempt on his life.
Harb said that after keeping the investigation report of his case for two weeks without taking any action, Madi tried to strike a deal with Hezbollah.
“He agreed with officials from Hezbollah that a person calling himself Mahmoud Hayek would hand himself over to the [Internal Security Forces] Information Branch to give his testimony on the condition he is released the same day without having his identity closely examined,” Harb said.
“This deal was opposed because it goes against proper investigation,” Harb said, adding that Madi tried to strike the same deal with Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr, who “apparently” opposed the deal as well.
According to judicial reports Tuesday no group has tried to strike a deal with the judiciary. The reports indicated that Hayek voiced his readiness to turn himself to authorities, on condition that he is immediately released if it turns out that he was not involved.
Harb said that when security bodies contacted Hayek to summon him for investigation after he was deemed a suspect, the answer they received was that he was a member of Hezbollah and that they should contact the party.
“Despite insistence and repeated telephone calls, Hayek refused to appear before the Information Branch that was carrying out investigation,” he said. “For this reason the investigation stopped.”
The Batroun lawmaker said that whenever he contacted Saqr, the latter avoided telling him the real reasons behind the halt in investigations and why he refrained from charging Hayek.
Harb said that when he telephoned Madi to inquire about the matter, the latter showed no interest in the case.
“Of course he did not promise to settle the issue with me, which made me suspect that there was a secret.”
Harb said that after he complained to Sleiman about the judiciary’s mishandling of his case, the president urged the judiciary during the funeral of Brig. General Wissam al-Hasan “not to be hesitant because people stand beside [the judiciary].”
Sleiman, continued Harb, urged the government and political leaders not to protect perpetrators and to unveil the truth about all assassinations and assassination attempts, including the one that targeted him.
Harb added that Baabda Palace sources revealed on Dec. 11 that Sleiman had asked Madi in a meeting about the reasons behind the judiciary’s failure to take suitable measures against Hayek.
The lawmaker said that Sleiman’s insistence deterred Madi from putting more pressure on security bodies and the judiciary, making it possible for Saqr to file charges against Hayek.
Harb said that when he learned that Madi was still trying to strike the agreement in favor of Hayek, he made the comment that Saqr’s charges against Hayek had thwarted the deal Madi was trying to make at Hezbollah’s request.
Harb said it was Madi, not he, who offended the judiciary.
“You insulted the judiciary ... when you collaborated with the suspect and put pressure on the investigation bodies to help the suspect at the expense justice,” he said.
“Madi claims that the president never intervened [to resolve] pending cases in judiciary, particularly in the attempt on my life. Then how does he explain the speech of President Sleiman during Hasan’s funeral?”
Prime Minister Najib Mikati reiterated calls for separating the judiciary from political bickering.
“We reiterate the call to keep Lebanon’s judiciary away from political disputes, and we stress that the judiciary is fulfilling its tasks honestly away from any influences whatsoever,” he posted in Facebook.
“The freedom of expression given to the nation’s lawmakers should not be harmed or targeted and the right of lawmakers to express their opinions freely should remain intact,” he added.
For its part, the Future Movement of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri described Madi’s request as another attempt on Harb’s life.
“This request is a scandal that amounts to another assassination attempt against Harb,” the bloc said in a statement after its weekly meeting.
“Is it plausible to ask the judiciary [to lift] immunity from an MP who survived an assassination attempt when it barely fulfilled its obligations toward [resolving] the case?” the bloc asked.
Qortbawi said he received Madi’s request Monday, adding that he would study it calmly and make his decision in line with legal considerations only.