BEIRUT: Lebanon’s highest court Friday ordered fugitive Habib Shartouni to turn himself in within 24 hours, as the trial investigating the 1982 bombing that killed President Bachir Gemayel and 32 others was opened.
Judge Jean Fahed, head of the Judicial Council, issued the order for Shartouni to turn himself in “as he is a fugitive of the law.”
Bachir’s son and MP for Ashrafieh Nadim Gemayel told The Daily Star that he believes Shartouni will one day be caught.
“The war in Syria will eventually end and the places for [Shartouni] to hide will run out ... We have time to catch him,” Gemayel said.
Shartouni is currently believed to be living in Syria.
When asked about the relevance of opening the case more than 30 years after the crime was committed, the MP replied: “It gives a moral significance to the justice system, while confirming that the blood of Bachir and our martyrs did not spill in vain.”
He added that it is time to “turn the page on this historical event and continue Bachir’s political and resistance message.”
The court also called for proof that a second suspect charged with taking part in the bombing, Nabil al-Alam, is no longer alive.
Following the court’s decision, Gemayel thanked the lawyers who worked to open the case.
“Four years ago, we requested the formation of a judicial council for this trial ... We hope it is a speedy and quick process,” the Ashrafieh MP told reporters.
Gemayel maintained that he did not want to politicize the process. “We are committed to finding the killer of the president and bringing justice to those that were killed in the bombing. Even if the location of Habib Shartouni is still unknown, we want him tried in absentia,” he said.
He added that it is the role of security forces to pursue Shartouni if there are clues to his whereabouts.
A member of the Syrian Socialist National Party, Shartouni was charged with the assassination at the time; however, he never stood trial once the case was transferred to the Judicial Council.
He escaped prison in 1990 after Syrian troops stormed east Beirut.
Gemayel said he has faith in the new era and the Lebanese judiciary to see justice served.
Outside the courthouse prior to the opening of the case, Bachir Gemayel’s widow, Solange, said she never lost hope.
“I waited 34 years to witness the trial of Bachir’s killers, and never lost hope in the cause that Bachir stood for,” she told reporters.
Prosecutor Edmond Rizk said the trial is not to avenge anyone but rather “to restore the state’s authority, beginning with the judiciary ... We want the judiciary to fully carry out its role.”
Bachir Gemayel, members of his Kataeb Party and innocent bystanders were killed when a bomb exploded at the party’s headquarters in the Beirut neighborhood of Ashrafieh on Sept. 14, 1982.
He had been slated to be sworn in as president just nine days later, on Sept. 23.
The trial has been adjourned by the Judicial Council until March 3, 2017.