Lebanon’s Security Services Intensify Suppressive Measures against Anti-Syrians “with Cabinet Blessings”
Lebanese plainclothes intelligence agents arrested at least 10 supporters of Christian anti-Syrian groups on Thursday, using heavy force to suppress a demonstration in front of the Justice Palace in Adlieh, reported the Daily Star Friday. Meanwhile, the cabinet supported the army move.
Demonstrators were beaten with rifle butts, kicked, trampled on, with some dragged off to nearby vehicles before being driven off into custody, it said.
The Free Patriotic Movement and the disbanded Lebanese Forces said that 13 of their supporters were “illegally” arrested.
A crowd of about 200, most of them university students, had gathered to protest Tuesday’s army clampdown on groups condemning “Syrian tutelage,” which resulted in some 200 arrests. According to judicial sources, the latest tally of those still in detention is 120. State Prosecutor Adnan Addoum decided Thursday evening to list 53 of them for release, “for lack of evidence of their involvement in acts of riots and instigation.”
According to the Associated Press, the Lebanese army's mass arrest of up to 250 anti-Syrian Christian activists this week was conducted without Cabinet knowledge, but the government supports the security sweep, the information minister said Thursday.
Apparently trying to defuse a political crisis, the pro-Syrian Cabinet stressed in a stormy 5 1/2-hour session that it still controls the government and its various arms, including security services.
The Cabinet on Thursday threw its full weight behind the army’s crackdown on Christian opponents of Syria’s presence and said it would stop “infractions” by television station MTV for its coverage of the issue.
Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said ministers “confirmed the Cabinet’s role in implementing the law and supervising all state institutions,” an answer to charges that security bodies were acting unchecked during the roundup of scores of people, said the Daily Star.
The Cabinet also “praised the army’s role in safeguarding civil peace and defending the country’s dignity.”
Asked about the government’s position on several dozen people arrested and assaulted during a protest earlier in the day, Aridi said that the security forces’ behavior was “rejected.”
When pressed to reveal details of the “conspiracy” that Interior Minister Elias Murr has used to justify the crackdown, Aridi was evasive.
He also said most ministers “had no knowledge” of the arrests, indicating that the knowledge of Murr, who was acting defense minister when Khalil Hrawi was abroad earlier in the week, was sufficient. Murr and Hrawi briefed ministers, who had a “useful” discussion after hearing of the investigation’s initial results, Aridi said. Premier Rafik Hariri “had no reservations” about the Cabinet’s decisions, the minister added.
The Cabinet charged Aridi with coordinating with the National Audio-visual Media Council to halt media “infractions,” referring to a talk show by MTV that turned Tuesday night into a forum where participants voiced bitter criticism of the government.
Meanwhile, the paper reported that exiled former army commander Michel Aoun issued a call Thursday for a general strike on Saturday to protest the arrest of his followers and Lebanese Forces partisans, as parties and politicians continued to criticize the crackdown. In one of two statements from Paris, General Aoun said he was not surprised at the arrests of scores of his followers.
“We were not surprised at the charges leveled against members of the Free Patriotic Movement, most of which were false anyway,” Aoun said.
“But we were surprised at how the charges were transformed from political to legal charges and how judges became tools for political oppression,” the statement added.
Aoun told Al Jazeera satellite channel Friday morning that what he seeks by his calls is to pressure the Beirut government to respect the laws and secures civil freedoms, including the freedom of expression – Albawaba.com
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