AFP
Last updated: 20 February, 2013

Lebanon seeks death penalty for ex-minister in Syria plot

A Lebanese judge Wednesday demanded the death penalty for ex-minister Michel Samaha and Syrian security chief Ali Mamlouk, who face charges of plotting attacks on political and religious figures in Lebanon.

Military magistrate Riad Abu Ghida said Samaha and Mamlouk should be given the ultimate punishment “for transporting explosives from Syria to Lebanon in an attempt to assassinate Lebanese political and religious leaders,” according to a copy of the indictment received by AFP.

They were also accused of targeting “Syrian gunmen” and “smugglers” in the Akkar region along Lebanon’s northern border with Syria.

Samaha and Mamlouk were first accused in August of planning the attacks along with a Syrian army colonel identified only by his first name, Adnan.

Investigators have said that explosives were found in Samaha’s car when he was arrested at his home on August 9. A former information minister, the Christian politician is known for having close ties to the Damascus regime.

An arrest warrant for Mamlouk was issued on February 4.

According to the indictment: “The explosives were delivered by Colonel Adnan to Samaha in Syria with the approval of Mamlouk.”

“Defendants Mamlouk and Adnan agreed with Michel Samaha to carry out bombings aimed at killing Syrian gunmen and smugglers… and to recruit people to carry out the bombings against insurgents and smugglers in the Akkar region.”

Samaha is also accused of “inciting sectarian strife”.

An inquiry will be made to learn the full identity of Colonel Adnan.

The military court, meanwhile, decided not to prosecute in the same case Buthaina Shaaban, a senior advisor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, citing “lack of evidence.”

Syria occupied Lebanon militarily and politically for nearly three decades until 2005, when its troops were forced to pull out of the country under international pressure.

Seven years after Syria withdrew from Lebanon, the country’s political forces remain sharply divided over their powerful neighbour.