Aoun Would have to Appear in Court if he Returns to Lebanon
General Michel Aoun, an anti-Syria Christian leader who was banished from Lebanon in 1991, would have to appear before an examining magistrate if he returned to Lebanon, a Lebanese judiciary source told AFP Friday.
The source, who requested anonymity, said the general had been accused of usurping power and embezzling state funds when he was allowed to flee Lebanon to France in 1991 on condition that he did not return for at least five years.
An examining magistrate is still in charge of Aoun's legal file at the Judicial Council, a court whose verdicts are not subject to appeals.
The source added that the magistrate would decide whether or not Aoun should be arrested, or pending charges should be dropped.
Aoun, who still counts numerous supporters in Lebanon especially at Lebanese universities, said Thursday that he was ready to return to Lebanon on the condition that he would not face legal prosecution or harassment from state security services.
Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri had guaranteed Aoun's safety and immunity from government prosecution on state television Tuesday night.
"I guarantee that he will not be arrested. We are not considering his arrest," Hariri said and added at most Aoun would be forced to give back embezzled funds, if he had actually stolen anything.
Commenting on Hariri's pledge, Aoun said nothing in his history justified his arrest or pursuit by the government, but he wanted a guarantee "the security services will not attack me."
Aoun said that Hariri's initiative constituted a new playbook in Syria's policy towards Lebanon if the move was coordinated with Syria.
Aoun ruled Lebanon as head of a Christian military coalition between 1988 and 1990.
During his stint in power, Aoun carried out a "war of liberation against Syria" before being ousted by a Syrian-led military faction.
Syria currently maintains a 35,000-strong military force in Lebanon -- BEIRUT (AFP)
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