BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Military judge to issue Samaha indictment

Samaha could face the death penalty.

BEIRUT: Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghayda will issue a final indictment against former Information Minister Michel Samaha Wednesday, judicial sources told The Daily Star.

The sources said Tuesday that Abu Ghayda has finalized the indictment and he will submit it within the next 24 hours to the Military Tribunal.

They added that Abu Ghayda will submit his indictments against Samaha and two other Syrian officials identified as Syrian Gen. Ali Mamlouk and Col. Adnan, whose real identity is unknown.

The investigative judge will refer the case to Military Tribunal head Brig. Gen. Khalil Ibrahim.

Samaha, a longtime ally of the Syrian leadership, was arrested by the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch last year on charges of transporting explosives from Syria and plotting terror attacks in Lebanon.

Asked whether the Military Tribunal would hold a trial for the Samaha case in the next few weeks, one judicial source said it was highly unlikely.

“Once the indictment is made in the Samaha case, it will take months to get to the court due to judicial procedures,” the source said.

The evidence, which includes audio recordings implicating Samaha in terror plots with officials from the Syrian regime, is still with the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch, an issue that Samaha’s lawyer argues impedes a fair trial.

Samaha’s lawyer Sakhr al-Hashem said the defense has yet to be briefed on the evidence that the court has against the former minister.

“The day the case was handed to the prosecutor, evidence that the Information Branch had should have been submitted to the prosecutor’s office,” Hashem said. “But this did not happen. Instead all the evidence has remained with the Information Branch and we have not seen it despite our demands to look at them.”

Earlier this month, Military Prosecutor Saqr Saqr requested that Samaha and Mamlouk be tried on counts of terrorism. In his last recommendation before referring the case to Abu Ghayda, Saqr asked that Samaha and Mamlouk be indicted for “preparing bombs and explosives, transporting them from Syria to Lebanon to target Ramadan iftars with the aim to kill clergymen, politicians, lawmakers and citizens.”

Judicial sources said Samaha and Mamlouk could face the death penalty if charged for the crimes.

According to Hashem, the accusation to be issued by Abu Ghayda will likely be “90 percent similar to the charges made earlier [by Saqr].”

“We have serious challenges against the charges being pressed against Samaha, and we will deal with the indictments of the court after they are officially issued,” he said, adding that Abu Ghayda’s indictment would not be politicized.

Hashem said he believes the defense will succeed in weakening the accusations against his client when trials commence at the Military Tribunal.

“I have full trust that our challenges will weaken the accusations and will dismiss 90 percent of the charges made against Samaha,” Hashem said.

Most of the evidence against Samaha was brought to police by an informant, Milad Kfoury, who had played the role of a double agent before the former minister’s arrest in August 2012.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 20, 2013, on page 3.

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