BEIRUT: Tensions flared between the March 14 coalition and opposition parties over the UN-backed tribunal ahead of the weekend, threatening a political stalemate amid fears of further escalation.
Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon said Friday the UN-court has jurisdiction to rule on former Major General Jamil al-Sayyed’s right to access his criminal file on condition that such right does not compromise ongoing investigations.
Sayyed made the request for his file to launch proceedings in another court against former witnesses whom Sayyed condemned as “false witnesses” who misled investigations that led to his arrest in 2005.
“After recalling that an individual’s right to access his criminal file is a basic one, Judge Fransen noted that the exercise of this right could be limited, in particular where it might compromise ongoing investigations, undermine fundamental interests or affect national or international security,” said a statement by the STL.
According to the statement Fransen ordered Sayyed and STL Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare to submit to him by October 1 “their observations concerning the applications of these limitations to the present case.”
Separately from the STL’s decision, Hizbullah expressed Friday its rejection of the summons issued by Lebanese State Prosecutor Saeed Mirza against Sayyed, while Future Movement MPs said Hizbullah sought to abolish the STL and warned of stances similar to those that preceded the May 7 events.
Mirza this week summoned Sayyed for questioning over threats against state institutions made during a news conference earlier last week.
Sayyed had during the news conference accused Prime Minister Saad Hariri along with judiciary and security officials of fabricating false witnesses and threatened the premier to “take justice into his own hands if false witnesses and those behind them from Hariri security and judiciary team are not put on trial.”
“We in Hizbullah consider this decision as a political one aimed to terrorize and repress every victim of injustice telling the truth during this period, a decision that we strongly reject and urge to withdraw quickly,” said a statement by Hizbullah’s press office. “Enforcing justice requires that the judiciary swiftly seize the case of false witnesses and those who fabricated them, pushing Syria and Lebanon into a dark phase that almost destroyed everyone,” the statement added.
Commenting on Hizbullah’s statement, the March 14 Secretariat General questioned Hizbullah’s demand that the Lebanese judiciary to back down “despite threats of violence against Prime Minister Saad Hariri.”
“Is Hizbullah’s position part of comprehensive plan under the current circumstances to finally make a coup against the state amid ongoing peace talks,” the statement added.
The March 14 secretariat also urged the Cabinet and the judiciary authorities to assume their responsibilities by refusing to back down.
For their part, Future Movement MPs tied Hizbullah’s position to the atmosphere that preceded the May 7, 2008, events when the Cabinet decided to sack chief of Airport Security Wafiq Safa, an official loyal to Hizbullah.
At the time, the Cabinet decision to sack Safa and dismantle Hizbullah’s telecommunication network led to bloody clashes between pro-government and opposition gunmen as the latter overran west Beirut Sunni neighborhoods.
The clashes ended with the Doha Accord that led to the formation of a unity Cabinet and saw Michel Sleiman elected as a consensus president.
“Hizbullah’s position reminds us of the atmosphere of May 7 and the discourse of threats which we regard as an attempt to prevent the judiciary from taking the legal procedures against those who attacked the state and public order,” Future Movement MP Jamal Jarrah said.
Jarrah’s colleague, MP Ammar Houri said Hizbullah’s statement was part of a political campaign aimed against the STL, describing it as “one of the worst statements” particularly that “it supported the individual [Sayyed] that threatened the leader of the Sunnis,” in reference to Hariri.
Sayyed demanded Friday that Mirza lift his hands off the case “given the personal dispute between [Mirza] and Major General Sayyed after Sayyed filed a lawsuit against judge Mirza before the Lebanese judiciary,” a statement by Sayyed’s press office said.
Sayyed, who accused Mirza, along with head of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) Ashraf Rifi and head of the Information Branch of the ISF Wissam Hassan of backing false witnesses, is scheduled to return to Lebanon from France on Saturday.
The statement by Sayyed’s office said the former general’s attorney filed a demand to the penal court of cassation before the Higher Judicial Council to remove the case from Mirza’s hands from as well as relieve Rifi and Hassan of their positions as judicial police over their involvement in the issue of false witnesses.
Members of the Homicide Department, tasked by Mirza to deliver the summons to Sayyed, have visited his residence twice so far but were informed that the former security chief was in France.
Media reports said Friday that Mirza could file a warrant to execute the summons if Sayyed fails to show up for testimony.
Syrian Ambassador Ali Abdel-Karim Ali voiced hope that “Lebanon would move to the next step with regard to the resolution of the issue of false witnesses,” particularly after Hariri’s remarks to Ash-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper.