BEIRUT: Several MPs called over the weekend for the expulsion of Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon over the recent indictment of former Lebanese MP Michel Samaha as well as two Syrian military figures.
“It is time that Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon be summoned and that he and the explosives be returned to Syria and our envoy in Damascus be recalled until there is a democratic order there which acts without enmity toward Lebanon,” March 14 MP Marwan Hamade, a fierce opponent of the Syrian regime, said in comments published by An-Nahar newspaper Sunday.
On Saturday, Samaha, a former MP and two-time information minister, was indicted by Lebanon’s military tribunal for plotting to assassinate political and religious figures in the country and planning terrorist attacks.
In an unprecedented move, Syrian National Security Bureau head Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk and a Syrian brigadier general, who was identified as Brig. Gen. Adnan, were also included in the indictment.
Judge Sami Sader, the government’s deputy commissioner at the Military Tribunal, also charged the three men with creating an armed group aimed at undermining the authority and prestige of the state.
Samaha was arrested by the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch Thursday on suspicion of being involved in a plot to carry out bomb attacks in Lebanon on behalf of the Syrian regime.
Hamade also urged Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour to inform his counterparts at a ministerial Arab League meeting, which had been set to take place later in the day in Saudi Arabia but was later canceled, due to “the aggression against Lebanon that almost breached civil peace.”
Mansour said Saturday that there would be no alteration of diplomatic ties between Lebanon and Syria until the courts issue their verdict.
“There have been no diplomatic steps taken and there will not be until the judiciary has its final say,” the National News Agency quoted him as saying Saturday.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Sunday that Lebanon adopted its policy of dissociation toward developments in the region “out of conviction” in order not to interfere in the affairs of other states and “for this reason we will not allow anyone to interfere in our affairs or that Lebanon be turned into an arena for settling scores or to import foreign crises.”
He added, “In light of the information and results, we will take a political stance and decision that is in tune with safeguarding Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence and to disallow anyone from threatening the Lebanese and their safety.”
In the statement, made through his information office, Mikati said he had instructed authorities to get to the bottom of the revelations that explosive devices had entered the country.
“I asked relevant security authorities to conduct investigations to determine who and how explosives entered Lebanon and to bolster [security] at all border points,” Mikati said.
MP Akram Chehayeb, a member of the National Struggle Front that has been highly critical of Assad, also said it was time for Syria’s Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel-Karim Ali to leave.
“Is it not time for Lebanon to kick out the ambassador of the rogue regime that is hostile to its people and all the people in the region?” he asked in a statement Sunday.
Chehayeb said Ali needed to explain his position given the Samaha case.
“The ambassador of the Syrian regime to Lebanon does not miss an opportunity to assure the regime’s keenness over the security, stability and peace in Lebanon ... but what does he say after the military tribunal’s indictment of former MP and Minister Michel Samaha that the regime requested him to do things and provided him with the necessary explosives and money to strike at Lebanon’s security, stability and peace?” he asked.
Chehayeb also called on Lebanese officials to explain their position given the alleged revelations in Samaha’s case.
“Given what was leaked in terms of reliable testimonies that incriminate the Syrian regime, its intelligence and ruling symbols and demonstrate what this regime holds for Lebanon, what is the position of officials toward a regime that has lost its credibility and violated international and Arab treaties and agreements of cooperation and coordination between Lebanon and Syria and after there is tangible evidence that this regime wants to undermine Lebanon?” he asked.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi issued a statement Sunday denying reports that Milad Kfouri, who sources identified as providing incriminating footage in the Samaha case, was still under the minister’s employment.
“Some media referred to Mr. Milad Kfouri, whose name has become linked to the case of the arrest of former Minister Michel Samaha, as being under the employment of Minister Safadi within a security capacity,” the statement said.
Safadi’s office said the minister had turned to Kfouri in 2005, in the aftermath of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, when politicians had turned to security firms to provide protection. “It was within this context that there was cooperation with Mr. Kfouri, who presented himself as an owner of a firm offering security services and on this basis he was contracted,” the statement said.
Safadi’s office said Kfouri ended his contract in the third week of July 2012 “for reasons he did not wish to clarify and his work ended there.”
Security sources told The Daily Star that a man from the Kfouri family had provided what they described as incriminating evidence of Samaha saying Assad had desired bomb attacks in the country.
“This is what Bashar wants,” security sources quoted Samaha as saying of the Syrian leader, in a video shot by Kfouri, who was working as a Lebanese undercover agent for the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch.
The sources also said that, in the video, Samaha can be seen and heard saying that Syrian Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk had handed him the bombs in addition to cash to be distributed to would-be perpetrators of the attacks in Lebanon.
When interrogators screened the video in his presence, Samaha promptly admitted to being the man on film, the sources said.