BEIRUT: Press cards found in the military vehicles used in the February raid on the border town of Arsal that led to the death of two soldiers have been handed over to the judge investigating the case, judicial sources said Monday.
The sources told The Daily Star that the Lebanese Army provided Military Investigative Judge Fadi Sawwan identification cards and press credentials belonging to photographers and journalists that were found in the vehicles involved in the deadly Arsal incident.
On Feb. 1, two soldiers were killed in an ambush set up by gunmen in Arsal after a military intelligence patrol detained Khaled Hmayyed, a resident of the town. Hmayyed later died during a clash.
The sources speculated that the identification documents may have been used by the military as cover to enter the town or journalists might have accompanied the army during the raid.
The bloody incident raised tensions in the eastern town as residents and gunmen involved in the attack claimed the soldiers had approached in civilian vehicles. The Lebanese Army maintains that a military vehicle accompanied the soldiers.
Thirty-four people have been charged over the incident.
Arsal Mayor Ali Hujeiri failed for the second time to show up Monday before Sawwan as a witness in the case.
Hujeiri’s lawyer, Tareq Shandab, appeared in court on behalf of his client and requested that the judge remove the mayor’s name from a list of wanted individuals that the Army has circulated.
Video footage of the aftermath of the incident allegedly shows the soldiers wounded and killed in the incident being transferred by gunmen to the municipality building of Arsal.
The lawyer also asked Sawwan to designate a judge from the Bekaa Valley, east Lebanon, to listen to Hujeiri’s testimony.
Shandab, who is also representing the family of Hmayyed, also requested to listen to the testimony of the head of the Army patrol that arrested the man to reveal the circumstances behind his killing.
He also requested that a medical committee be set up to re-examine the bodies of the soldiers to determine the cause of death.