Lebanon News

Sayyed's lawyer stresses claim of political detention

BEIRUT: The attorney of detained former General Security chief Jamil al-Sayyed said on Thursday that the "real reasons" behind the continuing detention of his client were being revealed by the day. "I thank [head of the Democratic Gathering] MP Walid Jumblatt for shedding light on the reasons behind the detention and revealing to the public that my client is being kept in custody for ulterior motives," Azouri told The Daily Star in a telephone interview.

On Tuesday Jumblatt called for a re-examination of all the files on events that occurred under the Lebanese-Syrian security regime.

"We all know how ... Sayyed fabricated the dossier on the Our Lady of Salvation Church incident to throw [Lebanese Forces leader] Samir Geagea in jail," Jumblatt said, referring to a 1994 attack for which the LF was blamed. The bombing killed 10 people and wounded scores.

"MP Jumblatt, being a leading member of the governing coalition, is known to have high credibility and his latest remarks serve as an additional proof that the detention is being heavily politicized," Azouri said.

Sayyed, in addition to former Presidential Guard commander Mustafa Hamdan, ex-Internal Security Forces boss Ali al-Hajj and former army intelligence head General Raymond Azar, have been detained for more than two years on suspicion of involvement in the February 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Sayyed urged "any Lebanese whom I have mistreated, or caused harm to file a lawsuit against me."

"Maybe his stay in prison will be justified this way," Azouri said.

Azouri added that the four security chiefs were being held  because "a full political shift or settlement has still not been accomplished in Lebanon, in addition to the immensity of the Hariri crime."

"Historically," he added, "it is the army and employees rather than politicians that paid the price during major political shifts in the country."

Commenting on the memo sent by the Lebanese government to the UN's Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in which it defended as "perfectly legal" its long-running detention of the security officials, the attorney said the document was "off topic."

The government statement came in response to criticism by the OHCHR, which has called for the men's release, saying their detention without charge since August 2005 was "arbitrary" and "unjust."

"The memo mentions that the investigating magistrate has confronted my client with one of the witnesses in the case and informed him about the charges made against him, which is totally unfounded," Azouri said.

"The former head of the international probe committee, Detlev Mehlis, facilitated the escape of two witnesses in the case, Mohammed Zuhair Siddiq and Hussam Hussam, out of Lebanon and thus the Lebanese judiciary never saw them or questioned them," he added.

He also described the government's memo as "unconstitutional since it is considered  a blatant intervention in the work of the Lebanese judiciary."

The government said in its letter to the OHCHR that Investigating Magistrate Saqr Saqr's decision to hold the former security chiefs in custody "was in line with articles 108 and 363 of the Lebanese penal code."

"Articles 108 and 363 are clear and stipulate that the period of preventative detention is unlimited if the case has been assigned to the Judicial Council and if the crime reflects on state security," it added.

The government added that Saqr chose to hold the four "to protect their lives and prevent them from seeking refuge in another country, which is likely to have detrimental effects on the overall investigation."





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