Lebanon News

Rifi presents Samaha case to ICC chief prosecutor

File - Resigned Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi arrives to attend a Cabinet session in Beirut, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Resigned Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi said Friday that he sent a dossier to the International Criminal Court to look into the terror case of ex-Information Minister Michel Samaha.

Rifi said he presented the case to ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda late last month.

The minister had announced last month his intention to refer the case of Samaha to the ICC, while also calling on Canadian authorities to get involved.

In the case file, Rifi accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad of “barbarically killing and targeting the Lebanese people with explosions to silence it.”

“The Syrian regime didn’t hesitate to task its adviser in Lebanon, ex-Minister Michel Samaha, to stage mass killings and murdering civilians and clerics to create a sectarian sedition between the Lebanese to ignite a new civil war.”

Rifi outlined Samaha’s case in detail, and noted that the ex-minister is a Canadian citizen, which makes him eligible for prosecution by the ICC.

Citizens of countries that are signatories to the Rome Statute of the ICC, such as Canada, are eligible to be prosecuted.

Lebanon is not signatory to the Rome Statute.

The minister has vowed recently to pursue the Samaha case until the Lebanese enjoy stability and security.

Samaha, a key ally to Assad, was released by the Military Court of Cassation on a nearly $100,000 bail last month despite being convicted in a terror plot last year.

He was convicted on terrorism charges in May of 2015 for smuggling explosives into Lebanon and planning attacks on political and religious leaders.

Originally sentenced to four and a half years in prison, the verdict was later annulled and a retrial ordered following an outcry over the leniency of his sentence.

Samaha’s release on bail has evoked nationwide outrage, mainly by the March 14 coalition, as he allegedly plotted to target anti-Syrian officials in northern Lebanon.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 05, 2016, on page 3.

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