The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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November 19, 2014

The Daily Star - Changing Roumieh Islamists’ sentences legally impossible, November 19, 2014

Samya Kullab, Hashem Osseiran

Changing the court’s ruling over the case of five Roumieh prisoners, as per the demands of Islamist militants, is legally impossible, judicial sources said. The release Tuesday of suspected terrorist Baraa Hujeiri, the son of former mediator Sheikh Mustapha Hujeiri, who was also charged with belonging to the Nusra Front a few months back, raised speculations that it was tied to the deadlocked negotiations to free 27 Lebanese servicemen in the custody of ISIS and Nusra.

The discharge on the same day of a Free Syrian Army commander had no connection to the hostage file, well-acquainted sources said.

Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr issued a decision to release Free Syria Army commander Abdullah al-Rifai, who was detained for nine days after attempting to enter Lebanon with false documents.

Free Syria Army sources, who knew Rifai personally said the decision to release the commander was not related to the negotiations.

“His release was likely linked to a swap deal over the release of a Hezbollah fighter who was abducted by the FSA last month, when the two groups clashed in Tal al-Maamoura near Asal al-Ward,” Abu Arab, an FSA battalion deputy commander, told The Daily Star.

Rifai is currently in General Security custody, which is expected to decide on the legality of the commander’s presence in Lebanon this week, his lawyer Tarek Chindeb told The Daily Star.

Chindeb, who defends several Islamist prisoners, had filed a request to release Rifai. In his request submitted last week, the attorney argued that Rifai had not committed any crime within Lebanese territories and that his detention was a violation of legal conventions. Preliminary interrogations carried out by military intelligence corroborated the claim.

Meanwhile, the Saudi nationals whose conviction by the judiciary provoked ISIS militants to threaten seven of their nine Lebanese captives with execution this week were considered among the “fiercest who fought against the Lebanese Army” during the 2007 Nahr al-Bared clashes, according to judicial sources, quoting case records.

Together, the five Fatah al-Islam members, brothers Talal and Amer Sayari, Mohammad Mbayry, Mubarak al-Karbi and Ayed al-Kahtani, were among the last fighters standing to be arrested by the end of battles, after the military cordoned off the battered refugee camp.

The men were charged with four counts, including killing soldiers, threatening the security of the state, undermining the state’s prestige and endangering Lebanon. Originally sentenced to death, their verdicts were reduced to life with hard labor last Friday.

The reduced sentence was an irrevocable decision made by the Judicial Council, meaning demands made by Islamist militants to further lessen jail time is legally “impossible,” the judicial source said.

Theoretically, a pardon can be issued by the president, a post unfilled since Michel Sleiman’s mandate expired in May, or Cabinet if at least 24 ministers vote in favor.

ISIS’ planned executions were delayed by three days Monday, after heightened political negotiations behind the scenes.

Inside Roumieh prison, a security source expressed surprise that the five men had caused such a stir. Compared to others the source said the five were “friendly,” unlike their more reclusive counterparts who rarely interact with prison staff.

Typically, the source said, judges issued sentences in cases involving Islamist prisoners Fridays, and their lawyers then inform inmates in prison the next day. It is likely that ISIS militants in Arsal were informed of the sentence over the weekend.

Maj. Gen. Khalil Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s military court, also issued a decision Tuesday to release Hujeiri, 17, on bail.

Hujeiri, arrested last year, was detained over his involvement in clashes that led to the killing of two Army soldiers in Wadi Rayan in the outskirts of Arsal.

In February 2013, a botched Army operation to arrest Khaled Ahmad Hmayyed – who was suspected of having links to the Syrian opposition and groups sympathetic with Al-Qaeda – led to deadly clashes that killed two soldiers, Pierre Bachaalani and Ibrahim Zahraman, as well as Hmayyed.

Judicial sources said there was no evidence to support the fact that Hujeiri possessed a weapon or opened fire at any of the soldiers. He was suspected, however, of driving the vehicle that transported the bodies of the two soldiers to Arsal’s municipality.

Chindeb said Hujeiri is a minor and would stand trial in February, speculating that the timing of his release might be related to ongoing negotiations to free 27 hostages.

Hujeiri’s bail was set at LL6 million. Judicial sources said the family complained of their inability to cover the expenses. Hujeiri will remain in custody until the sum is secured. – Additional reporting by Youssef Diab

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