Last updated: 19 July, 2014

Sentencing of Palestinians fuels tension in Lebanon camp

The Lebanese army sent reinforcements Saturday to a refugee camp after a court handed heavy sentences to 22 Palestinians over deadly clashes six years ago between Islamists and the army.

Friday’s verdicts in Beirut were the latest in the ongoing trials of Lebanese and other Arabs accused of involvement in the months-long 2007 battles at Nahr al-Bared in northern Lebanon.

Judicial sources said two Palestinians were sentenced to death in absentia, six others were handed life sentences and the others were given jail terms of between seven and 20 years.

The sentences triggered fury in Nahr el-Bared, where relatives of the convicted men took to the streets to vent their anger, an AFP correspondent said.

The camp was almost totally destroyed in the fierce fighting between the military and a small Al-Qaeda-inspired group called Fatah al-Islam.

Some 400 people were killed, including 168 soldiers, and 30,000 camp residents fled.

Hundreds of suspects were later arrested and around 100 were charged with membership in Fatah al-Islam and put on trial, judicial sources said.

Many others are still on the run.

Several people have been sentenced to death, life in jail and other prison sentences since the trial began in June 2013, but Friday’s verdicts were the first against a group of suspects rather than individuals.

Relatives of those sentenced wrote to the Palestinian ambassador in Lebanon, Ashraf Dabbur, urging him to intervene on behalf of “the victims of injustice”.

Relatives of those convicted have threatened to stage further protests, and the army deployed troops around the camp to bolster those already inside.

Nahr al-Bared is the only one of 12 Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon under the direct control of the Lebanese security forces.

By long-standing convention, the Lebanese army does not enter the camps, leaving security inside to the Palestinians themselves.

Lebanon is home to around 422,000 Palestinian refugees, whose presence remains a source of tension.