BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) official, ex-General Fayez Karam, was indicted for collaborating with Israel by the Military Court first Investigative Judge Riyad Abu Ghayda Thursday, a judicial source said.
Karam was charged with providing Israel with classified information that undermined the Lebanese state’s interests and authority, the source said.
The indictment against Karam called for a sentence of 20 years hard labor. Elias Karam was charged in absentia for cooperating with Karam.
The indictment, which has yet to be published, accused Karam of holding meetings with Israeli Mossad agents during his stay in Paris, contacts which continued when he returned in Beirut in 2005.
The indictment added that Karam provided the Israelis with the minutes of meetings held between FPM leader MP Michel Aoun and Hizbullah’s leadership, as well as details of coordination meetings between officials of both parties.
However, Karam’s lawyer Rashad Salameh discredited the indictment, saying it fell short of evidence that the former general assisted Mossad in any way.
Salameh added that the indictment barred the trial of Karam on charges of “encouraging the enemy to launch an assault against Lebanon in line with article 274” and “referred him to court on charges of assisting the enemy.”
If proven guilty of assisting Israel, Karam could be sentenced to up to 20 years of hard labor in accordance with article 278 while according to article 274, the death penalty can be invoked if a spy’s activity has led to a loss of Lebanese life.
“This is a very interpretable concept [article 278], I deny that Karam assisted the Israelis and that there is evidence proving otherwise,” Salameh said.
The Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces has said it possessed documents which proved that Karam confessed to collaborating with Israel during investigations.
Salameh, who voiced distrust in the Lebanese judiciary, said he had hoped that the investigative judge would veto Karam’s trial.
“Karam will be put on trial before a military court, which usually does not take long,” he added.
Salameh said that contrary to previous protocol, Karam’s attorneys are currently entitled to look over the minutes of preliminary investigations to build upon the defense case.
“The difference between the past period and now is that suspicion before an investigative judge is enough of a motive to file an indictment, but before the court, doubt is a proof of innocence,” Salameh said.
FPM officials say political motives were behind Karam’s arrest by the Information Branch, an apparatus close to Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a political foe of Aoun.
Aoun has argued that investigations carried out by the Information Branch were illegal since the “apparatus’ establishment was illegitimate,” and claimed that Karam was subjected to torture during interrogation. “Our objective today is to prove the innocence of our client and convince the court that no solid evidence of criminal acts exists. The court is not compelled to approve the indictment but could declare Karam innocent,” Salameh said.
Lebanon has rounded up more than 150 individuals suspected of spying for Israel since the army launched a crackdown on agents in 2007, many of whom are being held and await trial.
Unconfirmed reports said Karam was tasked by Israeli intelligence services with uncovering the location of Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during his meetings with FPM leader MP Michel Aoun. Though Hizbullah has refrained from commenting on Karam’s case, Nasrallah has urged authorities, on several occasions, to carry out death sentences against spies if proven guilty.
Karam, 62, headed the Lebanese Army’s anti-terrorism and counter-espionage unit during the 1980s and was close to FPM leader Michel Aoun, who was army chief toward the end of the Civil War. Aoun entered into an alliance with Hizbullah in 2006, a year after returning to Lebanon from exile in France.