Lawyers: Confessions by Jailed Lebanese Opposition Leader False, Forced

Published August 14th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Several Lebanese lawyers charged on Monday that the confessions of Taoufiq Hindi, a leading anti-Syrian activist who was arrested last week, were false and extracted under pressure. 

"We wrote a request to general prosecutor Adnan Addum for authorization to allow a medical commission to examine Hindi, especially following the release of a videotape in which he appears making confessions that were extorted from him," one of his lawyers, Charles Harb, told AFP. 

Hindi, of the banned Christian Lebanese Forces (LF), "has been held secretly for the last six days and his family is increasingly worried, especially after the release of the videotape of his interrogation," he said. 

Lebanese television played on Sunday a film distributed by the army command, which showed Hindi making confessions about contacts with an Israeli official. 

Beirut Bar Association president Michel Lian, meanwhile, lambasted the release of the videotape, said the Daily Star.  

“There are two principles that are being violated,” Lian said. “The law calls for secrecy of investigations, and public access to hearings.”  

Retired Judge Munif Hamdan also agreed with Lian.  

“The law forbids the publication or dissemination of any document before the case reaches court,” he asserted.  

He added that the law says the state prosecutor has no right to conduct investigations or interrogations, but could simply guide the procedures.  

According to Hamdan, while the videotape may be considered “evidence,” the proceedings “are not a real investigation and are subject to doubt.”  

Hamdan argued that it was difficult to hear the accused, while the voice of Addum was audible.  

“Moreover, the heavy editing on the tape, under any circumstances, casts doubt over its credibility,” he added  

Hamdan also said that the state prosecutor did not have the authority to interrogate anyone, whether caught in the act or not.  

Hindi, political advisor to LF commander Samir Geagea who is serving life sentences for wartime assassinations, was apparently filmed by a fixed camera while being questioned by Addum. 

Hindi's wife also told AFP that "he appeared in the film, as if under the effect of some drug and was not coherent in his speech." 

"They probably drugged him to extort confessions from him, or the film may be fabricated," she said. 

Hindi is among the more than 200 anti-Syrian Christians seized in an army intelligence crackdown over the past week. 

The dissolved LF militia also denied Monday having plans to partition Lebanon, a main accusation of the army and justification for its current wave of arrests. 

The raids also targeted followers of former prime minister General Michel Aoun, who had declared a "war of liberation against the Syrian occupier" in 1989 before a Syrian-led military offensive forced him to flee into exile in France a year later. 

 

HARIRI: MPs GRUDGINGLY PASS BILL ‘TO AVERT POLITICAL CRISIS’ 

 

Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri said Monday that an amendment backed by President Emile Lahoud had been passed by Parliament Monday to "avert a political crisis." 

Hariri made his remarks during a stormy parliamentary session on the recent arrests of members of the country's Christian and anti-Syrian opposition. 

A heated debate broke out over an amendment to the criminal procedure, which is backed by Lahoud and gives increased powers to the general prosecutor, while extending police custody to four days, AFP and the Daily Star reported. 

"Nobody wants to be prime minister in these conditions. The amendment proposed today is not put forward for judicial reasons but for political reasons. We don't approve of it but we are going to vote in favor of it to avert a political crisis," he said. 

It was passed by a majority of 71 deputies in Lebanon's 128-seat Parliament. 

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt's parliamentary group and other deputies walked out of the session in protest, said AFP.  

According to some members of the Beirut Bar Association who requested anonymity, the amendment was only passed to cover up the recent round-up of Christian activists. 

Two weeks ago, the same Parliament had passed a bill limiting the powers of the general prosecutor and keeping the length of custody at 48 hours, although Lahoud had sent it back for a second reading. 

Monday's session saw a number of vigorous interventions from various MPs including Nayla Moawad, who said "the behavior of the security forces was reminiscent of Stalinism," said the Star. 

Another deputy, Boutros Harb, asked the government "whether or not it had started an investigation into the identity of those responsible" for the recent arrests. 

The arrests over the past week, the way they were carried out by the security forces and the legal procedure had sparked criticism from political circles. 

 

 

DRUZE LEADERS CALLS FOR EXTENSIVE INQUIRY INTO ARRESTS 

 

Druze Leader Walid Jumblatt called Monday for “an extensive inquiry” into the recent arrests and warned against regressing to the dark days of civil war, said the Daily Star.  

Speaking during Monday’s parliamentary session, Jumblatt, head of the Progressive Socialist Party, also criticized army intelligence, describing its crackdown on hard-line Christian factions as “worse than that during the days of the late President Fouad Chehab.”  

The MP also demanded “answers, not to me personally, but to future generations, about the way students were beaten up.”  

He said Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir’s recent tour of the Chouf “was not a bilateral deal,” and that President Emile Lahoud “must have heard some whispers during (Sfeir’s) visit to Deir Al Qamar … which led to the … arrests.”  

Jumblatt noted that in the West, thousands of people demonstrated against globalization: “If President Lahoud had in fact heard some unpleasant remarks in Deir Al Qamar, he should be broad-minded enough to engage in discussion with all groups.”  

He recalled that Lahoud had started a dialogue with “Sfeir, then us, then with the Qornet Shehwan Gathering and later with the Democratic Forum. Then the crackdown started … Premier Rafiq Hariri was in Pakistan and did not know what was going on. Neither did Defense Minister Khalil Hrawi. Until Interior Minister Elias Murr came up with this statement containing some kind of threat and reminding us of the bad days of the civil war and giving us lessons in democracy.”  

Jumblatt urged all concerned “not to open the civil war files, otherwise no one will escape the dragnet, including me.”  

“We don’t want to go back to the role of the Deuxieme Bureau (army intelligence), Kahaleh and the massacre of 1969.”  

He also asked about “plainclothes men who enter homes and beat up young people. What militia do they belong to?” 

Lebanon is struggling to recover political and economic stability in the wake of decades of civil war, and an Israeli invasion that left in its wake orphans, minefields and ruined infrastructure – Albawaba.com  

 

 

© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)


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