BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi said Islamist prisoners, held for several years without charge, will be indicted within two weeks.
“The release [of prisoners] is a judicial issue and politics has nothing to do with it,” Qortbawi said in remarks published Wednesday by the local daily Al-Joumhouria.
“All Islamist detainees will receive indictments by Investigative Judge Ghassan Oweidat within two weeks,” he said.
Qortbawi explained that once the indictments are issued, Oweidat hands off jurisdiction to the Judicial Council, which will try those who have been indicted. It is believed that some of those indicted will be convicted of lesser charges and sentenced to time already served.
Dozens of Islamist prisoners have been held in Lebanon for several years without trial over suspected links to Fatah al-Islam, an Al-Qaeda-inspired group which fought the Lebanese Army in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in 2007.
Following Fatah al-Islam's defeat, security services sought the arrest of 570 people for involvement with the group, of whom 245 were apprehended. Since 2007, 147 of the detainees have been released, leaving 98 in custody. (Earlier reports incorrectly indicated that 180 detainees remained in custody.)
Lebanon released seven of the Islamist detainees on bail Tuesday. Fourteen men were originally scheduled for release Tuesday but the foreigners among them were referred to General Security for further processing, after which they will be released. Two Lebanese who were supposed to be released Tuesday remain in custody for involvement in other cases.