07/27/2005, 00.00
LEBANON
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Geagea in Paris for medical check-up and sightseeing

Paris (AsiaNews) – Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea Geagea has chosen to spend his first few days of freedom in Paris after spending 11 years in the dungeons of Lebanon's Defence Ministry in Yarze.

A few hours after being released, Geagea arrived yesterday in the French capital on a regular flight with his wife Strida and a small group of friends.

As soon as the news of Geagea's arrival was made public, Lebanese Forces supporters in France organised a reception for their former chief. Some 500 people were waiting to greet him brandishing Lebanese flags and portraits of the former LF chief. TV and print media were also present at the event.

The French Foreign Ministry said shortly before his arrival that Geagea's stay in France was private.
In Beirut a LF spokesman said that Geagea will remain in France for four to six weeks to recuperate after his imprisonment, to undergone a medical check-up and to do some sightseeing.

He was released after the Lebanese parliament approved an amnesty law following Syria's pullout that ended its three-decade occupation.
In a speech right after leaving prison, Geagea talked about the 11 years he spent in a small prison cell underground, totally isolated from the external world.

After recalling the "martyrs" for Lebanon's independence (especially Rafik Hariri and René Moawad), he thanked those who helped him: Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir and the many bishops who never "ceased to advocate this cause [his release] from the beginning", his allies in Walid Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party and Saad Hariri's Future Movement, the members of the Qornet Shehwan group and General Michel Aoun's Free National Movement.

"My special thanks," he added, "also go to hundreds of thousands of Lebanese, who have made March 14 [the day a month after Rafik Hariri's assassination in which thousands gathered to protest], a nation's procession toward freedom, dignity and justice." (JH)

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