Lebanese Military Court Barred from Trying Anti-Syrian Activists
Lebanon's Court of Cassation ruled Monday that the military could not try some 60 anti-Syrian Christians arrested in an army crackdown last month, a judicial source told AFP.
The court, whose rulings cannot be appealed, ordered that the activists be referred to civilian courts, except "those accused of harming the reputation of the Lebanese and Syrian armies and those accused of showing violence to security agents," the source said.
More than 200 activists were arrested by army intelligence services early last month, triggering criticism that Lebanon was turning into a "police state."
But most were later freed, some without charges, and around 75 were bailed out pending trial before the military court.
The defendants' lawyers appealed to the Court of Cassation, which approved on Monday that the cases of some 60 accused of illegal political activities be referred to civilian courts.
Five activists, who are still detained, face trial by the military tribunal for "contacts with the enemy Israel" and could be given the death penalty.
The Court of Cassation ruling came after the crackdown sparked a political crisis, with many opposition figures warning that such heavy-handed military actions threatened the country's democratic practices and freedoms.
Syria is the main powerbroker in Lebanon, with thousands of troops still stationed in the country since the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war -- BEIRUT (AFP)
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