A Lebanese military court sentenced the first group of Lebanese members of a defunct pro-Israeli militia Monday, giving more than half of the 79 on trial one year in prison, reported the Associated Press.
The apparently lenient sentences came despite warnings against going soft on the alleged collaborators from leaders of Hizbullah, who fought to evict the Israelis and their South Lebanon Army (SLA) militia allies from southern Lebanon, added AP.
In the first sentences against the members of the disbanded South Lebanon Army, 48 of the 77 defendants got one year in prison.
Thirteen received 18 months, two got two years, two got three years, and three got six months, the agency added.
In the harshest sentence, one defendant got a five-year term, and in the most lenient, four received one-month terms.
The court, announcing the decisions after a late-night session, said it decided not to try four defendants under 16, referring them to juvenile court, AP said.
The court assessed fines ranging from $67 to about $1,000.
The light sentences also may be aimed at wooing those who have fled to Israel to return home and face justice rather than live as refugees, AP said.
About 1,500 former SLA militiamen have surrendered since the militia collapsed without a fight a day before the Israeli pullout.
About 30 former militiamen have been released for humanitarian considerations including poor health or old age.
But in a sign that the court will not be lenient with those who do not surrender, the Military Tribunal tried in absentia Nabih Abou Rafei - once considered the third most senior member of the SLA - along with another senior officer, sentencing each to 15 years in prison.
Abu Rafei and senior SLA officers are believed to be among the 7,000 Lebanese - ex-militiamen and their families - who fled to Israel a day before the Israeli army completed its withdrawal from southern Lebanon on May 24th, according to the agency - Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)