BEIRUT: Interior Minister Marwan Charbel voiced opposition Friday to the creation of an investigative committee to probe a recent incident in east Lebanon that led to the death of two soldiers.
“We reject the establishment of an investigative committee in this case because there is a military tribunal and it’s that judiciary's prerogative to intervene in this matter, particularly given that the Lebanese Army has the names of the perpetrators,” Charbel said.
His remarks came during his meeting with a delegation from the Journalists’ Syndicate.
Last week, two soldiers were killed after an Army unit was ambushed by gunmen in the eastern town of Arsal. The soldiers were apprehending Khaled Hmayyed, who was wanted on terror charges.
Hmayyed, according to the head of Military Intelligence, was a member of Jabhat al-Nusra [Al-Nusra Front], the Islamist group fighting along rebels in Syria with ties to Al-Qaeda.
The incident sparked outrage in the country and many officials including Prime Minister Najib Mikati who urged Arsal residents to cooperate with the Army to help in the hand over the gunmen.
The Future Movement has called for the creation of an investigative committee to look into the circumstances of the death of Hmayyed, who the Army said was killed in the shootout.
The opposition says that the facts surrounding the incident remain unclear.
General Prosecutor Hatem Madi referred Friday the Arsal incident to Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr, who will begin an investigation into the case.
Charbel also criticized the delay in issuing arrest warrants against the perpetrators given that the Army, according to the minister, has a list of suspects.
“Why haven't any warrants been released against those wanted in Arsal?” he asked.
“I am ready to do whatever the judiciary asks me to facilitate the investigation,” he said, adding that he was willing to lift immunity from the head of the Arsal Municipality Ali Hujeiri if he was asked to.