Last updated: 30 May, 2014

Lebanon court delays trial of ex-minister bomb plot suspect

The trial of a former Lebanese minister accused of plotting attacks and transporting explosives has been postponed to December 5, a judicial source told AFP on Friday.

Michel Samaha was due to face a military court on Friday but the judge, Brigadier General Khalil Ibrahim, postponed the hearing because the ex-minister’s alleged co-conspirator, Syrian security services chief Ali Mamluk, was absent.

“We could not notify (Mamluk). We had handed the arrest warrant to Libanpost (Lebanon’s postal service) but the company told us they could not deliver the letter because of the situation in Syria,” the source said.

It is the third time the trial of Samaha, once a Syrian government ally, has been postponed.

Samaha was arrested in August 2012 at his home in northern Beirut.

Mamluk — one of Syria’s most senior security officials — is believed to be 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 unrest in Lebanon and the politically charged nature of the trial have raised questions about whether it will be carried out.

In the event of a non-response, Lebanese law allows for the trial against Samaha to proceed with Mamluk being tried in absentia, but the court has not yet suggested it will follow that course of action.

Samaha was known for his close ties to the regime in Damascus, which has been battling an uprising aimed at toppling President Bashar al-Assad for more than three years.

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

Beirut has maintained an official policy of neutrality towards the Syrian conflict, but violence has regularly spilled over its borders.