07/22/2005, 00.00
LEBANON
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Family thanks Cardinal Sfeir for helping in Samir Geagea's release

by Youssef Hourany

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Ms Strida Geagea told AsiaNews that as soon as her husband Samir—the former head of the Lebanese Forces—is free, they are going abroad for three weeks. She also thanked the Maronite Patriarch, Card Nasrallah Sfeir, for all he did to help getting Samir free.

Lebanese President Émile Lahoud signed on Wednesday the two amnesty laws approved by parliament in favour of Mr Geagea and some 30 Islamic militants imprisoned on suspicion of terrorism.

Mr Lahoud did however express reservations about the amnesty, saying that to be just and equitable it should include other groups as well.

He said he hoped that the new parliament will rapidly adopt new legal rules for a global and equitable amnesty.

Samir Geagea is Christian and the only warlord sentenced for crimes committed during the country's civil war.

He was arrested in March 1994 for allegedly planting a bomb in Our Lady of Liberation Church in Zouk Mikael, in which 11 people lost their lives.

Although the allegations proved unfounded, he was still charged and sentenced to four death penalties—later reduced to life in prison—for crimes committed from 1975 to 1990.

Speaking to AsiaNews, his wife Strida thanked the Maronite Patriarch, Card Nasrallah Sfeir, for all he did on Samir Geagea's behalf.

Samir's father Farid, 80, has not forgotten his Tuesday and Thursday visits to the prison since 1994, the humiliations, the ten minute meetings that sometimes could surprisingly stretch to an hour when the whole family came. Now all he wants to talk about are injustices and forgiveness.

"We all sin and must forgive so that God may forgive us. I have prayed every day for the prison guards, because their fate is worse than that of the prisoners".

Samir's mother Marie said that in "11 years and 3 months I have not had a day of rest. I found courage telling myself that God is great, that injustices are not eternal. I never lost faith that I would see Samir free. But waiting in these last months has tired me a lot. I can forgive the injustices but I can't forget them".

The other amnesty law exonerates some 30 Sunni fundamentalists; some from Denneye in northern Lebanon, others from Majdel Anjer, in the Beqaa valley.

The former were accused of involvement in clashes with the army in Denneye that left 12 soldiers dead in 2000. The latter were accused of carrying out an attack against the Italian Embassy in 2004.

With the amnesty laws published in the official gazette yesterday, Samir Geagea is free. 

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