Hundreds of Lebanese citizens organized a sit-in on Friday in the capital Beirut to protest against the release of former Information Minister Michel Samaha who was convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to four and a half years in jail. The angry protesters demanded an immediate retrial of Samaha and that powers of the Lebanese Military Court be restricted to military affairs.
Supporters of the “March 14” coalition and the Progressive Socialist Party began gathering on Friday in Ashrafieh’s Sassine Square ahead of a rally to express their outrage over the controversial release of Samaha from prison.
Protesters gathered at the square before marching towards the former minister’s nearby residence.
The protesters chanted slogans condemning Samaha, the Lebanese Military Court, the Assad regime, Hezbollah militias, and MP Michel Aoun. They warned that Samaha’s release from prison is outright legalization of murder and new evidence that some Lebanese courts are still under the control of the Assad regime.
Imad Wakim of the Lebanese Forces party, who was present at the sit-in, said they would continue to press towards a retrial of Samaha, stressing that Samaha will no longer be accepted in the Ashrafieh area.
Wakim added that setting Samaha free was a stab to the Lebanese judiciary and justice as well as to the hopes of the Lebanese people, describing his release as a blow to the image of Lebanon.
Wisam Shibley of the Future Movement stressed his rejection of the Military Court’s decision, adding that it was made by the force of arms (referring to the Hezbollah militia.)
On Thursday, the Lebanese Military Court decided to release Samaha on bail. Samaha, a former adviser to Bashar Assad, admitted during his trial in August of 2012 that he had transported explosives from Syria to use in attacks in Lebanon with the help of Ali Mamlouk, director of the National Security Bureau of the Assad regime.
In 2007, the United States issued an entry ban against Samaha and a number of Lebanese officials who are loyal to the Assad regime because of their involvement in destabilizing the security and economy of Lebanon.” (Source: Agencies)