Last updated: 3 December, 2013

Lebanese court delays ex-minister’s attacks plot trial

The trial of a former Lebanese minister accused of plotting attacks and transporting explosives was postponed on Tuesday because of the absence of his alleged co-conspirator, a Syrian security chief.

Ex-information minister Michel Samaha was due to face the first session of his trial before a military court but the judge overseeing the process announced it would be delayed until May 30.

The delay follows a similar decision in June, when judge Brigadier General Khalil Ibrahim put proceedings on hold in a bid to secure the appearance of Syrian security chief Ali Mamluk.

Samaha has been under arrest since August 2012, but Mamluk — one of Syria’s most senior security officials — remains in Syria.

The two face charges of “transporting explosives from Syria to Lebanon in an attempt to assassinate Lebanese political and religious leaders”.

If convicted, they face the death penalty, but growing tensions in Lebanon and the politically-charged nature of the trial have raised questions about whether it will proceed.

The Lebanese judiciary issued an arrest warrant for Mamluk and sent Syria a formal notification of the warrant and charges in February, but received no response.

In case of a non-response, Lebanese law allows for the trial against Samaha to proceed and Mamluk to be tried in absentia, but the court has not so far suggested it would take that approach.

Samaha was known for his close ties to the regime in Damascus, which has been battling an armed uprising for more than two years.

The conflict has raised tensions in Lebanon, which Syria dominated militarily and politically for nearly three decades until 2005.

Lebanon’s powerful Shiite Hezbollah movement is fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but many Lebanese Sunnis support the uprising.