10/27/2021, 17.20
LEBANON
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Support for Geagea, targeted in connection with the Tayouneh clashes

by Fady Noun

The political controversy around the violence of 14 October continues. The leader of the Lebanese Forces fails to heed the summons by the Military Tribunal and rejects Judge Fadi Akiki. A head-on clash with Hezbollah and Amal has paralysed Nagib Mikati’s new government. Maronite patriarch defends Geagea.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The fallout from the clashes of 14 October at Aïn el-Remmané-Tayouneh, near the Beirut courthouse, continues.

The violence was sparked by monster demonstrations organised by Hezbollah and Amal to demand the departure of judge Tarek Bitar, who is in investigating the Beirut Port explosion of 4 August 2020.

Clashes between members of Amal and Hezbollah and probable members of the Lebanese Forces party, as well as a heavy-handed intervention by the army left seven people dead and around 30 wounded.

Summoned today as a witness by the Military Tribunal, the head of the Lebanese Forces (LF) Samir Geagea did not go to the place of the summons, the Defence Ministry.

He was notified by a posting at the entrance to the residential complex in Meerab (Kesrouan), where he lives.

The Defence Ministry is symbolically loaded for Geagea since he spent 11 years, from 1994 to 2005, in one of its jails, under very strict conditions, before he was pardoned by President Émile Lahoud and resumed his place in political life.

Investigators are trying to find the “ghost” snipers suspected of fatally wounding protesters. Geagea is suspected of ordering his men to shoot, but he vigorously denies the claim.

Media have been reporting “suspicions” by “anonymous sources” in the matter, but such sources are quite “suspect” since they are reporting the preliminary conclusions of the investigation, thus violating its secrecy.

Geagea says that if some of his supporters used their weapons, it was individually, in self-defence against hordes of violent protesters, some of whom were armed, who, straying from the path of the demonstration, terrorised the neighbourhood.

In pre-empting the summons, the LF leader claimed that Fadi Akiki, the government commissioner at the military court, had no jurisdiction in the case. His lawyers presented a petition challenging the "lawfulness" of Akiki's decision.

Another appeal was filed with the Beirut Court of Appeal demanding that the case be taken away from the government commissioner because of his relationship to Nabih Berri, the leader of the Amal party, which is a party to the conflict. Fadi Akiki is married to Mr Berri's niece, Nada Dakroub, a magistrate by profession.

Political and popular support

Geagea's summons earned him political and popular support from Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, Future Movement leader and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri as well as Christian Kataeb party chairman Samy Gemayel, all three political adversaries of Hezbollah.

The head of the Maronite Church, Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi, clearly showed his support last Friday as well, by denouncing Geagea’s court summons, since the leaders of the two other major parties involved in the clashes at Ain el-Remmané-Tayouneh, namely Hassan Nasrallah and Nabih Berri, were not summoned as well.

In addition, in an unusual step to prevent a serious political escalation, Patriarch al-Rahi successively yesterday met with Parliamentary Speaker Berri, Prime Minister Nagib Mikati, and President Michel Aoun proposing a solution to the investigation into the explosion of the Port of Beirut (4 August 2020).

Thousands of Samir Geagea's supporters also met yesterday at the Maronite patriarchal seat in Bkerké, before going to Meerab to show their support for Geagea, whom they believe is the victim of a political plot to eliminate him.

Finally, the Tayouneh incident has paralysed the government a month after it won a vote of confidence in Parliament, with cabinet meeting suspended after the Shia ministers demanded the judge in charge of Port investigation, Tarek Bitar, be replaced. 

Such a request appears to be inadmissible since the Superior Judicial Council, chaired by Souheil Abboud, after hearing and questioning Judge Bitar last week, gave him carte blanche to continue his investigation.

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