BEIRUT: Future Movement MPs questioned on Monday the timing of the Syrian judiciary’s issuance of arrest warrants against prominent Lebanese officials but maintained that the relationship between Premier Saad Hariri and the Syrian leadership remains open pending further developments.
However, LBC TV quoted on Monday sources close to Hariri as saying that they regarded the warrants as personally aimed against him.
As of Monday, the Lebanese judiciary had not been informed through official channels of the arrest warrants.
Future Movement MPs said Hariri’s parliamentary bloc would decide on the appropriate response after recieving clarification from the Syrian leadership.
While some Future Movement MPs condemned the warrants as a political move aimed against the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), March 14 Christian MPs slammed the warrants as an unacceptable violation of Lebanese sovereignty and an attempt to corner Hariri.
“Despite this surprise step, we hold on in the Future Movement to the new page in Lebanese-Syrian ties as a strategic decision regardless of flaws that will not influence our direction,” MP Ammar Houri said.
“The source of the news is a press office in Lebanon, but we were not informed of any official statement issued by the Syrian side so we must be sure of the integrity of the news,” Houri added.
According to former Major General Jamil al-Sayyed, some 33 arrest warrants had been issued by the first investigative magistrate in Damascus based on the lawsuit he presented before the Syrian judiciary.
Sayyed filed his lawsuit against individuals who allegedly misled UN investigations into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri with false evidence that led to Sayyed’s arrest in 2005 by the UN probe committee.
Sayyed was released by the STL in 2009.
Unlike his colleague Houri, Tripoli MP Samir Jisr condemned the warrants as politically driven, saying “it is clear that the issue is an attempt to push the Lebanese Cabinet to back down on the STL, a step that is impossible.” Jisr added that, from a legal perspective, the arrest warrants were void because the Syrian judiciary lacks territorial jurisdiction with regard to “a crime that happened on Lebanese territories.”
However, Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt, who on Monday moved closer to endorsing the position of Syria and Hizbullah vis-a-vis the STL, voiced support for the warrants following a meeting with the Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel Karim Ali.
On Sunday, Jumblatt said that “if the STL is going to lead to blood in Lebanon, then we are better off without it.”
“There is no problem as we mentioned before, and as Premier Hariri said, that the issue of false witnesses should be resolved,” Jumblatt said when asked to comment on the arrest warrants, including one against MP Marwan Hamadeh, a member of Jumblatt’s Democratic Gathering bloc.
“Finally, the judiciary is handling the case of false witnesses. The guilty should be punished and the innocent should be declared so. What happened is very good,” Jumblatt said following his meeting with Ali.
Asked whether the warrants would affect Hariri’s relations with the Syrian leadership, Ali said that “the question should be directed to the judiciary since issues should not be mixed up.”
“Matters are only judicial,” he added.
For his part, Hamadeh said earlier Monday that the warrants were void from a judicial point of view.
“These warrants are medals of honor for those who were issued one,” Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat said. “If the decision was a judicial and independent one then we would not have any problem with it, either in form or content.”