Lebanese Held in Syria to be Repatriated by Tuesday Morning
All Lebanese detained in Syria will be repatriated by Tuesday morning, Lebanese prosecutor general Adnan Addum said upon his return Monday from talks in Damascus.
"All the detainees will return either later on today or tomorrow morning at the latest," Addum, the head of Lebanon's joint judicial and security committee on prisoners in Syria, told AFP.
"The committee will convene again on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. (0630 GMT) and the detainees would have already come back," said Addum, who held talks briefly in Damascus on Monday alongside General Raymond Azar, the head of Lebanese intelligence services.
Buses backed by jeeps were dispatched earlier Monday to Syria to bring back the detainees, many of whom have been held for years without charges or trial.
Addum did not wish to disclose details, especially about the number of detainees to be repatriated.
"All the details will be given after the committee meeting," he said.
Officials here told AFP that the number of detainees to be returned would not exceed 50 people, although human rights organizations and associations of relatives put those held at several hundred or even several thousand.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri recently said there were around 40 detainees.
Lebanese President Emile Lahud and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad ended their silence on the thorny issue of the Lebanese held by Syria last Wednesday, saying the prisoners would be repatriated in "the next few days," but not giving any figures.
After the committee in charge of the repatriation first met on Friday, Addum explained that the prisoners fell into two categories, those who had been sentenced by Syrian courts and those unaccounted for.
Most of the prisoners are Christian militants or fundamentalist Muslims who oppose Syria's dominance over Lebanon.
The liberation of the Lebanese prisoners in Syria is a major claim of the Maronite Church, together with the re-establishment of ties between Beirut and Damascus that show Lebanese sovereignty.
Syria stations about 35,000 troops in Lebanon, where it is the major powerbroker -- BEIRUT (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)