Lebanon News

Attorneys press demand for release of ex-generals held in Hariri hit

BEIRUT: Attorneys for the four former security chiefs held on suspicion of involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said on Thursday that an international lawsuit was being processed against those responsible for their continuing detention.

"An international lawsuit has been filed against former head of the international probe committee Detlev Mehlis, his aide Gerhard Lehmann, Lebanese State Prosecutor Saeed Mirza, and investigative magistrates Elias Eid and Saqr Saqr holding them responsible for the unjustified and continued detention of the four generals," lawyer Malek al-Sayyed told a news conference held to comment on the 10th report issued by the UN International Independent Investigation Commission. Sayyed refused to disclose further details.   

Former security chiefs Jamil al-Sayyed of General Security, Ali al-Hajj of the Internal Security Forces, Raymond Azar of army intelligence and Mustafa Hamdan of the Presidential Guards have been detained since August 2005.

The UN investigation commission said last week that a "criminal network" had carried out the February 2005 assassination Hariri and was connected to other acts of political violence, but the panel's report did not name any suspects.

Attorneys said their main focus in the next period was to try to "reactivate the judicial aspect of the Hariri case which is currently caught in a vacuum."

"The work of the Lebanese judiciary on the Hariri case has been paralyzed since Investigative Magistrate Elias Eid resigned his post and Magistrate Saqr Saqr took over six months ago," lawyer Akram Azouri, told The Daily Star.

"This technical vacuum is made worse by political pressures exerted by Justice Minister Charles Rizk to influence the judiciary and coerce them to keep the generals in custody," Sayyed's attorney added.

UN Undersecretary General for Legal Affairs Nicolas Michel and a former head of the international probe committee, Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, both said that the continued detention of the former security chiefs was the responsibility of the Lebanese judiciary.

Azouri has launched a campaign to gather the signatures of 25 MPs to have a special court created to try Rizk.

"Article 19 of the Constitution clearly stipulates that once 25 MPs sign the petition, the speaker is then forced to hold a session to discuss the petition and establish the special tribunal," Azouri said in an earlier interview. "The Cabinet is not supposed to attend the session, as stated in the Constitution."

Speaker Nabih Berri has repeatedly said he will not convene Parliament as long as Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government remains in power.

On Thursday, Azouri said he has gathered "enough" signatures and that his petition was "on the right track and I am grateful to all the MPs who accepted to support the motion."

"I expect that some MPs from the March 14 will join my efforts to stop this judicial vacuum because one of the main demands of the March 14 coalition is to separate the political from the judicial," Azouri said.

He added that resorting to political means "usually weakens the judicial dossier ... but I found myself totally cornered ... After I succeeded in eliminating all the pretexts for the detention I found myself faced with the judicial vacuum and this is one way I can fight it."

 

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