Lebanon News

Harb offers 'legal solution' to 'false witnesses' row

BEIRUT: Labor Minister Butros Harb offered Friday a proposal to bridge the gap between rival political camps over the issue of “false witnesses” in the Rafik Hariri assassination case which has blocked Cabinet meetings for a month.

Harb urged the government to ask the Syrian judiciary to refer a lawsuit filed by former Major General Jamil al-Sayyed against so-called false witnesses to the Lebanese judiciary.

Earlier this year, the Syrian judiciary issued warrants against 33 individuals, based on Sayyed’s lawsuit.

Sayyed headed the General Security when Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in 2005 and was arrested later that year along with the country’s three other top security officials at the request of the head of the UN investigation committee Detlev Mehlis on suspicion of involvement in the murder.

The four officers were released in April 2009 by Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) Prosecutor Daniel Bellmare, just one month prior to the establishment of the UN-backed court.

“I propose that Lebanon’s judicial authority represented by the state prosecution and its political authority represented by the Justice Ministry … demand the referral of Sayyed’s lawsuit to the Lebanese judiciary to investigate the charges,” Harb said.

The minister said this would allow the Lebanese judiciary to issue an indictment, after which the Cabinet could deem whether the issue of “false witnesses” should be addressed in line with Article 308 of the Penal Code, allowing its referral to the Judicial Council, which looks into crimes affecting civil peace. “This is in my opinion a legal, logical and honorable solution to the issue, if motives behind demands to refer the issue to the Judicial Council are aimed at uncovering the truth and achieving justice,” he said.

The March 8 coalition maintains that “false witnesses” have misled the UN probe, earlier to falsely implicate Syria, and currently to target Hizbullah. But the March 14 coalition argues that the issue falls outside the prerogatives of the Judicial Council.

As The Daily Star went to press, political sources indicated that President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Saad Hariri had agreed to call the government for a meeting Wednesday with the issue of “false witnesses” topping the agenda.

Harb has submitted his proposal to both Sleiman and Hariri and is expected to meet with Speaker Nabih Berri for the same purpose.

 

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