Lebanese Gov’t Cracks Down on Christian Opposition following Maronite-Druze Reconciliation
Scores of followers of former army commander Gen. Michel Aoun and members of the Lebanese Forces were arrested on Tuesday in a clampdown on the two hard-line Christian factions, which demand Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon.
According to the Daily Star, “the rare offensive aimed to silence voices that have resumed calls for the withdrawal.”
Many of those detained were at a reception for Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir in Kahaleh on his return journey from the Chouf, the first by a Christian Maronite leader to the Druze area in 200 years.
The visit was described as historic, in light of the deeply rooted enmity between the Lebanese Christians and Druze.
The crowds raised a few shouts of “Syria out,” before the Maronite patriarch sternly warned that confrontational rhetoric was not the way to solve political issues.
According to the daily, the arrests marred the positive political mood that followed the reconciliation in the Chouf, cemented by Sfeir and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.
The military action fueled speculation that authorities were deliberately trying to undermine the weekend’s achievements, it added.
AFP and local media reported that the army's intelligence services arrested a high-ranking official of the banned Lebanese Forces Christian militia, Toufic Hindi, among other key figures.
An army officer who introduced himself as Col. Georges Sawaya, from the army's intelligence services, came to Hindi's home with two other officers and a civilian but no warrant, Hindi's entourage told the agency.
They did not allow him to make telephone calls and took him to an unknown destination, giving no explanation.
The leader of the National Liberal Party (NLP), Dory Chamoun, confirmed to AFP that Hindi had been arrested, as well as retired general Nadim Lteif, the coordinator of the Free National Current (FNC), another party in Lebanon's Christian opposition.
The army issue a statement saying they "had arrested people who were holding unauthorized meetings,” but did not elaborate on the identities of the arrestees or their number.
Liberal MP Nassib Lahoud also confirmed the arrests, called for their "immediate release,” and slammed what he said were "roundups aimed at people who have done nothing but express their political opinions, and which are not worthy of a state which calls itself democratic."
The private television network MTV said that in addition to Hindi and Lteif, "more than 100 Christian militants opposed to the pro-Syrian power have been arrested.”
MTV broadcast footage showing young people being taken away in army lorries.
The Future Television network, which belongs to Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, said some 40 members of the Lebanese Forces and the Aounist Party, as well as dozens of their supporters, had been arrested.
Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt told television reporters the arrests were "a stupid and irresponsible reaction on the part of the officials from the Lebanese intelligence services."
"I would like to know who runs this country, the intelligence services or the head of state and the government," said Jumblatt, one of the most vocal foes of Syria's military presence in Lebanon – Albawaba.com
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