Lebanon News

Hard evidence backs up Rifi’s remarks on abducted Syrians

BEIRUT: Allegations against the Syrian Embassy by ISF commander Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi of involvement along with ISF personnel in the kidnapping of Syrian opposition figures in Lebanon were based on concrete and indisputable evidence, security and political officials told The Daily Star Thursday.

The sources said that members of the ISF and the Syrian Embassy were involved in the kidnapping and the disappearance of at least four Syrian opposition figures in Lebanon.

During a meeting of the Parliamentary human rights committee Monday, Rifi briefed MPs on two high-profile kidnapping cases he said had been carried out this year by personnel from the Syrian Embassy in Beirut.

Three Syrian brothers from the Jasem family disappeared in February, after two of them went to pick up their brother, Jasem Merii Jasem, from a police station east of Beirut.

Human Rights Watch said in March that Jasem was originally picked up by military intelligence agents in Beirut after he was seen handing out flyers calling for democratic change in Syria.

Rifi said Monday that a car belonging to the Syrian Embassy in Beirut had been used to kidnap the brothers, according to participants in the session.

He also told the committee that he had collected “dangerous information” pointing to the embassy’s involvement in the May disappearance of Shibli Aisamy, an 86-year-old Syrian dissident and former high-ranking Baath Party official who was abducted in the town of Aley.

The ISF commander also expressed his belief that the kidnappings had been undertaken by Lebanese ISF personnel working in the embassy.

Security sources told The Daily Star Thursday that Rifi’s evidence was based on documents, information from secret service agents, photographs, video from surveillance cameras installed in the Syrian embassy parking lot and along roads surrounding the embassy, as well as witness testimonies.

Metn MP Sami Gemayel, who was among the lawmakers who attended Monday’s session, said Rifi had provided “dangerous information that implicates the Syrian Embassy in Aisamy’s kidnapping.”

Several lawmakers attending Monday’s session, including Sami Gemayel and Baabda MP Hikmat Deeb, have questioned the military prosecutor’s failure to apprehend those involved in the abductions.

“The committee at Parliament agreed to invite [State Prosecutor Saeed] Mirza for the next session to look into the reasons the Military Tribunal has failed to uncover the perpetrators,” Deeb said.

Judicial sources, however, defended the Military Tribunal, telling The Daily Star that the probe into the abduction of Syrian opposition figures was ongoing.

They said both the ISF and judicial authorities had conducted separate interrogations with the head of the Syrian Embassy guard unit, Lebanese First Lt. Salah Hajj after they received information that implicates the Syrian delegation in Lebanon.

Hajj is the son of Maj. Gen. Ali Hajj, Lebanon’s former ISF chief who was held along with three other Lebanese generals for four years for alleged involvement in the 2005 Hariri assassination. 

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 14, 2011, on page 2.

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