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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July 31, 2011

Naharnet - Roux: Too Soon to Verify Viability of Nasrallah’s Evidence in Hariri Murder - July 31, 2011

Head of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Defense Office Francois Roux stated that nothing is off limits in defending suspects in the trial of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, saying that their lawyers can bring up any matter related to the case, especially regarding the legitimacy of the court and the prosecutor’s evidence.
He noted however to the Kuwaiti al-Rai newspaper in remarks published on Sunday that the transparency of the court should not be questioned at the moment because it hasn’t conducted its judicial work yet.
The investigations in the murder should be addressed instead, he added.
The Defense will have the opportunity to question the credibility of the investigations and evidence, stressing that the arguments should be judicial and not political.
Contrary to what has been reported, the STL will take the right decision, Roux continued.
Asked if Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s evidence in the assassination is viable, he relied that it is impossible at this point to determine the viability of his evidence.
Only the Defense team can make that conclusion and present evidence that can acquit their clients, he said.
Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen only has what the head of the investigation has presented him, he remarked
The defense lawyer is responsible for determining whether this evidence can be used to defend the innocent, Roux stated.
Asked about his alleged comments that he described STL Prosecutor Daniel Bellamre as his enemy, Roux clarified that he had simply labeled him as an opponent.
The judicial debate is not a battlefield, he emphasized.
On Bellamare’s alleged ruling of Israel of being behind Hariri’s murder, Roux denied that the prosecutor had eliminated that possibility.
He explained that he does not have any information on his investigation in that possible lead, adding that the Defense can carry out the necessary investigations in that matter.
In August 2010, Nasrallah unveiled in a press conference several undated clips of aerial views of various areas in Lebanon, including the site of the Hariri assassination in west Beirut.
Nasrallah, who has accused Israel of the February 14, 2005 bombing which killed Hariri and 22 others, said the footage was intercepted from unmanned Israeli MK surveillance drones.
He conceded the images were not conclusive proof but noted that his party -- which is believed constantly under surveillance by its arch-foe Israel -- had no offices, positions or presence in the areas surveyed.

Naharnet - Revealing Names of Suspects in Hariri Case ‘Routine Procedure’ - July 31, 2011

Revealing the names of the suspects in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is part of a routine procedure aimed at exhausting all methods to inform the public about suspects, explained legal sources to the daily An Nahar in remarks published on Sunday.
This way, the public is given the opportunity to report any sighting of the suspects, they added.
The release of their names, photos, and biographies is a practice adopted by Anglo-Saxon trials, noting the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence is based on several Lebanese and Anglo-Saxon laws, said the sources.
The release of the names is part of the STL’s normal course of action and it is a sign that it is following through with its procedures, they noted.
In the suitable circumstances, the STL will gradually reveal all that the investigation has discovered, the legal sources stated.
Furthermore, the Lebanese judiciary does not have any additional duties in light of the release of the names of suspects seeing as General Prosecutor Saeed Mirza already has the details of the indictment and accompanying arrest warrants, they remarked.
The STL issued the first phase of its indictment in June.
It was accompanied by arrest warrants against four Hizbullah members suspected of being involved in Hariri’s 2005 assassination.

Naharnet - Mashnouq: Cabinet of Hariri Murder Suspects Cannot Implement STL Decisions - July 31, 2011

Mustaqbal bloc MP Nohad al-Mashnouq described the government as being that of the suspects in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri seeing as it includes Hizbullah members.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon released the first phase of its indictment in June, as well as arrest warrants against four Hizbullah members suspected of being involved in Hariri’s 2005 assassination.
Mashnouq told the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat in remarks published on Sunday: “Such a government cannot be trusted to cooperate with the STL or implement its decisions.”
The MP also defended the STL’s release of the names, photos, and biographies of the suspects, saying it is part of its procedures.
Furthermore, he supported Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat’s call to tackle the indictment at the national dialogue and the cabinet’s responsibilities towards it.
“The dialogue must be held before Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen takes the decision to release the details of the indictment that will definitely hold facts whose consequences we must cater for before they happen,” Mashnouq stressed.
“Whoever is seeking to tackle any other issues besides the indictment and Hizbullah’s arms is delusional,” he added.
“Political life in Lebanon cannot persist under the threat of the weapons and a vision that incorporates the arms in the state should be reached,” he continued.
“We want the arms to enjoy Lebanese consensus and fall under the state’s authority,” he explained.
“We have the need for a resistance given Israel’s repeated assaults, but it should lie in the hands of the state and not in the control of a party,” said the Mustaqbal MP.

Naharnet - Army Contains Akkar Family Quarrel after Grenade Attack - July 31, 2011

A dispute between young men from the Joud and Ismail families in the Akkar town of Sahlat al-Qammouha erupted into a fistfight that was followed by a grenade attack on the house of one of the quarrelling men in the Akkar town of Fnaideq, state-run National News Agency reported Sunday.
The quarrel and the grenade attack caused no casualties, NNA added.
A Lebanese army unit then intervened to restore calm in the town, arresting a number of people suspected of being involved in the incident, NNA said, adding that army troops were still pursuing several suspects.

The Daily Star - Lebanon's Arabic press digest - July 31, 2011

Following are summaries of some of the main stories in a selection of Lebanese and pan-Arab newspapers Sunday. The Daily Star cannot vouch for the accuracy of these reports.
An-Nahar: Moving ahead with national dialogue
After protest yesterday by officials over the publication of the names, photographs and profiles of the four men accused in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, it appeared that this is a routine procedure in foreign courts, and is thus not “extraordinary.”
Also yesterday, President Michel Sleiman continued his national dialogue meetings with Lebanese leaders. He received the head of the Future Movement Fouad Siniora at Baabda Palace. Sources said the aim of the dialogue is to "enable Lebanon to pass through the current phase and ensure a future of national cohesion and understanding among the Lebanese."
Siniora said the meeting offered “a variety of topics related to the elections and dialogue, while focusing on the role of the state and the challenges it faces.” He added that he believes “for dialogue to be meaningful and worthwhile, it requires an infinite line of discussion.” He said this includes the subject of Hezbollah’s arms. He added that a timetable would be set for the implementation of decisions made at the dialogue meetings.
Regarding security, Hezbollah’s media office said that the explosion that occurred the day before yesterday in Rweis was caused by a gas bottle explosion, which caused no injuries and only minor damage in the surrounding area. Meanwhile, several media outlets reported that the explosion was aimed at the former prisoner Samir Kantar, who lives in the area where the blast took place.
Asharq Al-Awsat: The “ghosts” accused of assassinating Hariri
In televised interviews with Beirut residents following the news of the charges of the Hariri assassination and the release of the names, photos and profiles of the accused, those interviewed said they didn’t know anything about the four men or their family backgrounds.
And when visiting the towns of residence of the men, residents said they knew nothing of the suspects. A source pointed out that “these are often silhouettes or ghosts, able to hide their identities” for security reasons, making the posting of the photos and the dissemination of the information of these characters obsolete. What is known is that all of the suspects are from Hezbollah strongholds.
According to the source, the accused are counting on the support of the party to protect them indefinitely. He pointed out that the possibility of dealing with Hezbollah in this matter is seemingly impossible due to several factors, most importantly geographically, psychologically and in terms of security. It would be difficult to arrest the accused without the consent of the party.
Al-Hayat: Siniora announces the need to start dialogue on arms
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and President Michel Sleiman yesterday said that the Future bloc is calling for the resumption of national dialogue, including addressing the issue of Hezbollah’s weapons. They said that this was the remaining item on the agenda of the national dialogue that began in 2006.
Meanwhile, it appears that France might be considering the withdrawal of its troops from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon following an attack on their convoy on Tuesday July 26 in Sidon, wounding five.
French sources told Al-Hayat that withdrawal of French troops from Lebanon is now on the table.
The source noted that Paris is awaiting the results of the Lebanese government and United Nations investigation into the incident. The source added that “the bombing took place in the south, and everyone knows who controls the south.”
The source said there was a feeling that French participation in UNIFIL was a kind of trap for France, saying that questions still remained over guarantees over U.N. resolution 1701.
On the domestic front Lebanese leaders are continuing the process of national dialogue, working on demarcating their maritime borders and celebrating the 66th anniversary of the Lebanese Army.
On the occasion of the anniversary, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said, “The first and last thing is to protect Lebanon and defend all its land, its people and their dignity.”

July 30, 2011

iloubnan - Farid Khazen : Le chemin du TSL est long et compliqué - July 30, 2011

Le député Farid Khazen, membre du bloc parlementaire Changement et Réforme, a clarifié samedi que "le chemin du Tribunal Spécial pour le Liban est long et compliqué juridiquement et politiquement, au Liban ainsi qu'à l'étranger", affirmant que "le sujet du TSL sera toujours au sein des discussions et des débats libanais et internationaux".

Quant au dossier de la richesse pétrolière, M. Khazen a expliqué lors d'une entrevue accordée à la radio "Voix du Liban" que "le gouvernement a des responsabilités et des priorités dont la démarcation des frontières maritimes".

The Daily Star - STL releases suspects’ identities - July 30, 2011

BEIRUT: The U.N.-backed court probing the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri Friday named the four men accused of the crime. All four are Hezbollah members.The Special Tribunal for Lebanon named Salim Ayyash, Mustapha Badreddine, Hussein Oneissi and Assad Sabra, as the sole suspects in the 2005 Beirut car bombing, which killed the five-time prime minister and 22 others on Feb. 14, 2005.
“The Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen ordered the lifting of confidentiality on the full names and aliases, biographical information, photographs and charges against the individuals named in the indictment,” a court statement said. “The prosecution alleges that the four individuals named in the indictment were involved in the Feb. 14, 2005 attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and others.”
Fransen accepted Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare’s first indictment last month, leading to the release of suspect names to authorities in Beirut on June 30.
According to STL statute, the decision to publicly disclose the names of accused individuals is Fransen’s, although judicial sources informed The Daily Star of indictment contents within hours of its release.
Ayyash is Hezbollah’s southern military commander, a veteran of the party’s 2006 war with Israel and considered by Hezbollah insiders as untouchable. Badreddine replaced the assassinated Imad Mughniyeh as the party’s military commander, and is similarly protected by Hezbollah’s security apparatus. Little is known about Oneissi or Sabra, although both are thought to be Hezbollah operatives.
The court announced that the decision to make names public was taken in order to maximize the likelihood of their arrest. According to a cooperation agreement Lebanon signed with the U.N. in 2007, authorities in Beirut are obliged to make “sufficient efforts” in apprehending accused individuals.
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, in the wake of indictment release, vowed that they would not be arrested by Lebanese security forces, “not even in 300 years.”
An STL spokesperson said that the men named Friday were the only ones on Bellemare’s initial indictment.
“According to the order, these are the only people named in the indictment,” the spokesperson told The Daily Star. “It is for the prosecutor to determine if and when to file another indictment.”
Lebanon has until Aug. 11 to report to the court on progress made in arresting accused individuals.
Although Lebanon is obliged under international law to assist the STL, Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government policy statement stopped short of committing to unconditional cooperation with the court. Fransen ruled that other elements of the indictment, which have already been passed onto international police agency Interpol would remain confidential for the time being.
“The remaining text of the indictment and the individual redacted versions for each accused will remain confidential at this stage,” the statement said.
“The pre-trial judge said in the order that disclosing the above information does not prejudice the rights of the accused, who are still presumed innocent.”
A senior judicial source told The Daily Star that the STL’s release of the names and addresses of the four accused individuals did not represent any additional information, since this information was included in the indictment.
Search efforts made by security apparatuses are being carried out based on addresses and descriptions of the accused stipulated in the indictment and which conformed to what was released by the STL Friday, the source said.
He added that search will continue throughout the entire 30 working day period given to the Lebanese judiciary.
Bellemare said the decision to make the names of the accused public was to facilitate their arrest. “This step has been taken to increase the likelihood of apprehending the accused in case any of them is seen by the public,” Bellemare said in a statement.
He reiterated that the named individuals are innocent until the tribunal has reached a final verdict after the completion of the trial and any appeals.
Indeed, the arrest of the four accused by the STL is only a first step in the process of uncovering the truth, according to a statement issued by the prosecutor’s office.
While Lebanese authorities persist in their efforts to arrest the accused, the Office of the Prosecutor continues to investigate and prepare for trial, the statement said.

The Daily Star - U.N. delegation visits Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp - July 30, 2011

SIDON: A former South African minister led a United Nations delegation that toured the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh Friday, observing the plight of the camp’s refugees.
Former South African Minister Ronnie Kasrils headed a U.N. delegation with members from 17 European, African and Asian countries on a tour of the refugee camp.
During the tour, Kasrils was received by representatives of various Palestinian factions and popular committees and affirmed his support for the Palestinian cause in the name of all the U.N. delegates visiting the country.
The U.N. delegation was also joined by a group of 50 Palestinian young people, organized by the Aidoun group in the Bekaa, carrying Palestinian flags and posters calling for the right of return.

The Daily Star - Newly opened training center aims to empower women - July 30, 2011

BEIRUT: A women’s training center was launched Friday in Baabda under a national plan to empower women economically, socially and politically.
“The center will organize consecutive sessions to train women in different fields in order to enhance their capabilities and bridge the gaps that still obstruct their path to equal participation with men,” said Dr. Fadia Kiwan, a board member of the National Committee for Lebanese Women.
Kiwan added that such gaps are the result of blatant discrimination against women found in laws and in people’s outdated mindset and social behavior.
The new center, which was established by the commission in collaboration with the Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation, was inaugurated in a ceremony Friday.
Among the attendees attending the ceremony were former first lady Mona Hrawi, the commission’s vice president Randa Berri, former ministers Leila Solh Hamadeh and Mona Ofeish, and several political, diplomatic and social figures.
First lady Wafaa Sleiman, who heads National Committee for Lebanese Women, called for ending the marginalizing of women, and expressed her support for their active participation in public and political life.
According to Sleiman, the commission had previously launched a national campaign to remove gender-discriminatory provisions of laws related to economic activity, as well as a national campaign to encourage women to run in parliamentary and municipal elections.
The plan involves amending laws in a bid to fulfill all women’s rights as citizens, strengthening women’s opportunities in education, health services, work, and political participation, as well as protecting women from all forms of violence.
At the ceremony, Solh condemned what she called Arab governments’ disregard for the rights of women over the past decades, despite governments’ claims to the contrary.
“When popular uprisings began in some Arab states, we noticed that women were present at the forefront of the uprisings and their cries were urgent because behind them lies years of social repression,” Solh said.
Solh also affirmed that the Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation would support the commission launching the center and work to establish other centers in Lebanon.
“We have a lot of work that awaits us,” Sleiman said, “especially when we face new obstacles that may cause us to feel bitterness such as the complete absence of women in the new Cabinet.”
Sleiman reasserted the committee’s demand to enact the draft law to outlaw domestic violence and stressed the need to issue a new nationality law which would allow Lebanese women to transfer their nationality to their foreign husbands and children. 

July 29, 2011

Now Lebanon - No detainees in case of Tuesday’s blast, Al-Hayat reports - July 29, 2011

An unnamed security source said there are no people detained in the case of Tuesday’s blast, which targeted UNIFIL, adding that army units detained 22 people who were in the area of the explosion and released them after listening to their statements, Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Friday.
Three French UNIFIL soldiers were wounded in a roadside bombing in the southern city of Saida, and another three, suffered hearing problems, French military officials said.

Naharnet - Top Car Robber, 3 Others Arrested in Brital - July 29, 2011

One of the most wanted car robbery suspects and three others were arrested in the Bekaa town of Brital, the general-directorate of the Internal Security Forces announced Friday.
It said the ISF arrested the four men during a raid on the house of the most wanted criminal on Thursday. The communique did not identify the suspects but said that the top criminal is a 41-year-old man who has 28 rulings against him.
But Voice of Lebanon radio station (93.3) identified the man as Mohammed Tlais.
The communique said the ISF force came under fire after the operation.
“While the force was leaving the town, unknown assailants opened fire from their machine guns and launched grenades in the air, which forced it to answer back to the source of fire, but no one was hurt,” said the communiqué.
It added that the judiciary launched in investigation into the incident.

Naharnet - Sami Gemayel Asks Charbel to Prevent Pro-Assad Demo from 'Provoking' Jdeideh Residents - July 29, 2011

Some 300 supporters of the Baath Party, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and Hizbullah on Thursday staged a demonstration in the Roueisat neighborhood in Northern Metn’s Jdeideh district in support of the embattled Syrian regime.
Demonstrators carried pictures of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) reported.
The Internal Security Forces prevented the demonstrators from reaching the main street in Jdeideh after MP Sami Gemayel urged Interior Minister Marwan Charbel to take the necessary measures in order to “avoid any clash,” state-run National News Agency reported.
“Following reports about a demo that will be staged … by the Arab Baath Party, the SSNP and Hizbullah in the Roueisat-Jdeideh area in support of the Syrian regime … MP Sami Gemayel quickly telephoned Interior Minister Marwan Charbel asking him to take measures in order to avoid any clash, especially that reports have suggested that the demo will head to the main street in Jdeideh, a thing that will represent a provocation against the area’s residents,” Gemayel said in a statement.
Shortly after Gemayel’s phone call, Charbel informed the lawmaker that “an ISF unit was dispatched to the area and tasked with preventing the demo from reaching the main street and preserving law and order,” NNA said.

Naharnet - Fayez Karam Trial Postponed to Aug. 30 - July 29, 2011

The military court postponed on Thursday the trial of Brig. Gen. Fayez Karam to Aug. 30, after the prosecution demanded reports about his health condition.
Al-Jadeed television reported that the general prosecution asked doctors from Dahr al-Basheq Hospital to submit reports about Karam’s health condition.
In July 2010, the Intelligence Bureau arrested the retired general, a senior member of the Free Patriotic Movement, on suspicion of spying for Israel.
Karam’s lawyer Cinderella Merhej told OTV that the trial delay was “not expected.”
“The legal path states that the court was postponed for two reasons: the first is the Intelligence Bureau request from the court to submit the voice records and the second is the demand from Dahr al-Basheq hospital to submit Karam’s health report,” the lawyer said.
However, the lawyer added that “the judge read a document issued by the Intelligence Bureau stressing that there are no voice or visual records” connected to the case.
Merhej described the postponement as “unjustified.”
Asked about FPM leader MP Michel Aoun’s stance on the case, she replied:” He didn’t warn of any postponement … but he considered it deliberate, hoping that this would be the last trial session.”
The lawyer said that the MP will later will announce his position on postponement.
Karam graduated from the military school in 1972 as lieutenant.
He held several leadership positions in the army, including head of the counter-terror and spying bureau.
He remained in his post until the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and his imprisonment in Mazze for five months.
Karam quit the military after Aoun was exiled to France in 1990.
He returned with him to Lebanon in 2005 when Syria withdrew its troops from the country, ending its 29-year hegemony.

The Daily Star - Pro-Assad demonstrators rally in Jdeideh - July 29, 2011

By Van Meguerditchian

JDEIDEH, Lebanon: Some 500 Syrian and Lebanese demonstrators loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad rallied Thursday in the Metn neighborhood of Roueisat.
Fewer than 500 meters from the Kataeb stronghold of Jdeideh, protesters chanted “God, Syria and Bashar” and sang nationalist songs while waving Syrian and Palestinian flags and setting off fireworks.Giant posters of Assad, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah and Speaker Nabih Berri were lifted during the rally on the road between Roueisat and the Justice Palace in Jdeideh.
“We are here to support Assad and tell him, ‘We are with you and your reforms,’” said a Syrian protester, who was one of dozens of Assad supporters helping to carry a giant Syrian flag.
Sadeq Daoud, a resident of the Syrian town of Hasakeh working in Beirut, said the demonstration also targeted the media, which he said was broadcasting false information about developments in Syria.
Human rights organizations have said that more than 3,000 people are missing and more than 1,500 have been killed in Syria since pro-democracy demonstrations began four months ago.
“TV channels like Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya have become a complementary tool that are working with the riot groups in Syria, which have killed more than 160 soldiers in the past three months,” said Daoud.
“All these criminals [demonstrators in Syria] should be punished with a death penalty … anyone creating havoc and [domestic] problems should be punished,” said Daoud, who asked Assad to use his “iron fist” to crack down on demonstrators.
Metn MP Sami Gemayel called on the Internal Security Forces to deploy in the area, fearing a confrontation between residents and protesters.

The Daily Star - Postponement of Karam spy case verdict provokes courtroom commotion - July 29, 2011

By Youssef Diab

BEIRUT: The Military Tribunal postponed Thursday a verdict in the case of retired Brig. Gen. Fayez Karam, a senior official of the Free Patriotic Movement charged with collaborating with Israel, until Aug. 30, a move that sparked commotion in the courtroom as Karam’s relatives and FPM’s supporters protested the decision.
Chaired by chief Judge Nizar Khalil, the session was devoted to hearing arguments before pronouncing the verdict. Karam was brought into the courtroom for the first time since his trial began.
Karam, a senior FPM official who returned to Beirut in 2005 with FPM leader Michel Aoun, was accused of collaborating with Israel and providing the Mossad with information about the FPM, Hezbollah and the meetings held between the two sides, and also information about other Lebanese parties in return for money. The tribunal’s indictment had demanded that Karam be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison with hard labor.
During Thursday’s hearing, Khalil read the response from the Directorate General of the Internal Security Forces to his request to provide him the audio records of the preliminary investigation conducted by the ISF’s Information Branch with Karam. The response indicated that no such records existed.
After Military Public Prosecution Judge Fadi Aqiqi demanded the summons of Fadi Hammad, an Information Branch official who had testified before the tribunal that there were audio and video records, defense attorney Rashad Salameh objected, saying there was no contradiction between what the witness said and the ISF’s letter. This prompted Khalil to postpone the session until Aug. 30.
In May, Hammad, told the judiciary that records of the interrogation with Karam, in which he allegedly testified to his spying for Israel, were present at the Information Branch.
However, the ISF’s Directorate General refuted Hammad’s statement, saying that the ISF does not keep records of interrogations made by the Information Branch.
Following the postponement, Karam’s relatives and FPM supporters shouted in protest at the decision. Khalil shouted back at them and asked military officers and police to detain those responsible for the commotion.
Three people were briefly detained.
Karam’s lawyer, Cindrella Merhej, expressed surprise at the postponement and said it was “unjustified.”

The Daily Star - Notorious car thief finally nabbed by ISF in Brital - July 29, 2011

BEIRUT: One of Lebanon’s most-wanted criminals was arrested Thursday, according to a statement issued by the Directorate General of Internal Security Forces.
According to the statement, Hamad Tleis, one of the most dangerous car thieves in the country, was arrested after units from the Office of Combating International Thefts, in collaboration with the Lebanese Army, raided his residence in the village of Brital in the Bekaa Thursday.
Tleis, who has 28 arrest warrants on charges of car theft, selling drugs, and counterfeiting money, was arrested with three other men who were staying with him and are also wanted on charges of theft and counterfeiting money, the statement said.
While the police were leaving the village, a number of people fired shots in their direction and launched RPGs in the air, to which the police responded, but no one was harmed, the statement added.

The Daily Star - Japan donates $2 mln to Palestinian refugee camp - July 29, 2011

By Mohammed Zaatari

SIDON: The Japanese government announced a $2 million donation Thursday to the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh to fund the first stage of a project to rehabilitate the camp’s infrastructure.
The donation, which was made through the Japan International Cooperation Agency, awaits the approval of the Lebanese government, according to Kotaro Tanaka, the director of the agency’s division in the Middle East.
UNRWA developed the project’s plan, which is divided into four stages.
The first stage includes renovating infrastructure such as the sewage and water systems in the vegetable market area and the surrounding area.

July 28, 2011

The Daily Star - Israel charges soldiers with shirking duties on Lebanon border - July 28, 2011

JERUSALEM: Israel court-martialled three intelligence soldiers for shirking surveillance duties on the volatile northern front with Lebanon and Syria, saying they had endangered national security.
The case highlights challenges faced by the conscript military as it beefs up defenses ahead of anticipated border protests in September, when Palestinians plan to sidestep stalled peace talks with Israel by lobbying for U.N. statehood.
Israeli media said the three soldiers, all female draftees, had gone to sleep during overnight shifts and in some cases had vandalized their surveillance equipment to render it inoperable.      
According to one report, they were responsible for monitoring the stretch of Mediterranean sea between Lebanon and Israel, which in the past has seen attempts by guerrillas to sail in to carry out attacks or smuggle weaponry.      
A lawyer for the defendants, Kobi Markolov, said their case should be considered a wake-up call given what he deemed the "sub-standard" service conditions of field intelligence units.      
"The eyes of the nation are sad, bleary and dulled," Markolov told Channel One television.       
In a statement Wednesday, a military spokesman said the soldiers were charges with "dereliction of duty to the extent of endangering national security".       
"Some of the accused have also been charged with damaging military equipment," said the spokesman, who declined to elaborate on the circumstances of their alleged offenses.

Now Lebanon - Lebanese authorities arrest musician for song about Sleiman - July 27, 2011

Lebanese authorities on Wednesday detained local musician Zeid Hamdan for allegedly defaming President Michel Sleiman, according to people familiar with the case.
In 2010, Hamdan and his band, Zeid and the Wings, wrote a song called “General Sleiman” that called on the president, who led the army before his 2008 election, to “go home.”
A message posted earlier in the day on his Facebook page said: “Message from Zeid [Hamdan] in prison: Dear friends, I am now in the prison of the police station of the palace of justice in Beirut because of my song ‘General [Sleiman]’. They are prosecuting me for [defamation] of President [Sleiman]. I [don’t] know, until when I am staying in prison. Please mobilize!”
A friend of Hamdan’s and Darine al-Hajj, director of the local human rights group ALEF, confirmed to NOW Lebanon that Hamdan was detained.
The Facebook group “Free Opinion, Free Speech, Mobilize NOW to Free Zeid Hamdan” said that activists would protest tomorrow in Beirut’s Adlieh area—near the General Security building he is allegedly detained in—if he is not released tonight.
The presidential palace did not return a call seeking comment. In 2010, Mirza had four people arrested for opening a Facebook group critical of the president.
In a 2010 interview with NOW Lebanon’s Angie Nassar, Hamdan said he did not intend to single out Sleiman for critique.
“I’m not attacking General Sleiman in particular, on the contrary, at the time I wrote the song, he represented real political neutrality. The only sarcastic thing I suggested in my song is about his effective role, a way of saying 'thank you, you did the job, you can go home now.' He was praised by all when they needed him and today he is attacked, like in the song,” he said.
According to Lebanon’s penal code, which has a loose definition of defamation, legal cases involving the president can either be initiated by the head of state or unilaterally by Attorney General Judge Said Mirza.

Now Lebanon - Lebanese musician free following slander arrest - July 27, 2011

Lebanese musician Zeid Hamdan was reportedly released Wednesday evening following his arrest for allegedly slandering President Michel Sleiman, the former’s lawyer, Nizar Saghieh, said.
Saghieh added that Attorney General Judge Said Mirza must now decide whether to file formal charges against Hamdan. Slandering the president in Lebanon carries a maximum prison sentence of two years.
A posting on Hamdan’s Facebook page said: “I am free now, thank [you] for your help!”
Mirza ordered Hamdan arrested for a music video he made about Sleiman, according to Saghieh.
In the song, entitled "General Sleiman," Hamdan's group "Zeid and The Wings" describes the head of state as a "miracle man" and urges all "militiamen, corrupted politicians, weapons dealers, foreign intelligence and neighbor influence" to go home.
The reggae-style English language song ends with the following lyrics: "General Sleiman, you're a miracle man for peace in the nation. General Sleiman you're a miracle man. Gene, gene, general go home."
Last year, three people were detained in Lebanon for using the social networking website Facebook also to allegedly slander the president.
No charges were brought against them and they were released after 11 days. 

Now Lebanon - Human rights activist interrogated by Lebanese military intelligence - July 27, 2011

Human Rights NGO Alkarama's representative in Lebanon Saadeddine Shatila said in remarks published Wednesday that Lebanese military intelligence summoned him for interrogation on Tuesday, adding that he was detained on Monday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
Asked about why he was interrogated, Shatila told Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai that the organization he works with wrote a report about violation and torture acts committed against those detained.
The report, which was submitted to the UN, addressed the torture that those detained in Lebanese army detention offices are subjected to, he added.
Shatila told the daily that he was not detained because of the report written about the situation of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, adding that he may be summoned for interrogation later.

Now Lebanon - Hajjar requests cabinet inquiry into Estonians’ abduction - July 27, 2011

Future bloc MP Mohammad al-Hajjar submitted a request on behalf of his bloc to the cabinet for an inquiry regarding the issue of the seven kidnapped Estonians who were released earlier in July, the National News Agency reported on Wednesday.
Hajjar said that he filed the request through Speaker Nabih Berri on July 25, adding that he did not announce it earlier upon the request of Berri’s office so that it be ratified before made public.
The inquiry requests clarification about the “mysteriousness” of the abduction, the MP said, adding that the Lebanese people have the right to know what really happened.
Seven Estonian men, in their 30s and early 40s, were freed on July 14 after a kidnap ordeal of almost four months. They were abducted at gunpoint on March 23 while on a cycling holiday in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley, after arriving from neighboring Syria.

Now Lebanon - Detained musician’s lawyer slams Lebanese attorney general - July 27, 2011

The lawyer of detained musician Zeid Hamdan on Wednesday slammed Attorney General Said Mirza for ordering the arrest of the former for his music video on President Michel Sleiman.
"General prosecutor Said Mirza ordered Zeid Hamdan detained for a song posted more than 18 months ago," Nizar Saghieh said.
"This is shocking," he added. "This case concerning the reputation of the president suddenly erupts while in the entire region you have heads of state being brought down and the people calling on them to leave.
"It is surreal in Lebanon to have this taking place."
He said the prosecutor must now decide whether to file formal charges against his 35-year-old client. Slandering the president in Lebanon carries a maximum prison sentence of two years.
In the song, entitled "General Sleiman," Hamdan's group "Zeid and The Wings" describes the head of state as a "miracle man" and urges all "militiamen, corrupted politicians, weapons dealers, foreign intelligence and neighbor influence" to go home.
The reggae-style English language song ends with the following lyrics: "General Sleiman, you're a miracle man for peace in the nation. General Sleiman you're a miracle man. Gene, gene, general go home."
Hamdan's production company Eka3 issued a statement denouncing his detention as a bid to trample on freedom of expression in the country.
"It's hilarious really," a company official said, requesting anonymity. "Here you have all these revolutions going on in the Arab world and we have this in Lebanon."
Last year, three people were detained in Lebanon for using the social networking website Facebook also to allegedly slander the president.
No charges were brought against them and they were released after 11 days.
By law, Lebanon's general prosecutor must take action in any case of libel, slander or defamation against the president or any "sister state" regardless of whether a plaintiff comes forward to press charges.

Now Lebanon - LF’s Habib says investigation underway into bodyguard shooting - July 27, 2011

Lebanese Forces Bloc MP Farid Habibi said on Wednesday that “security forces are carrying out all their duties to uncover the perpetrator who shot his bodyguard, Elie Habib.”
He told LBC television that “he does not [make] political accusations [against] anyone,” adding that “the security chaos is unacceptable.”
He added that the northern town of Kousba—where his bodyguard was shot—should be of the most secure in the country since it is the hometown of Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn.
“Unfortunately, the state does not control the security.”
Lebanese Forces MP Farid Habib’s bodyguard Elie Habib was hit on Wednesday with three bullets by an unknown person outside his home in Kousba in North Lebanon. Habib was transferred to a hospital, where he underwent surgery and is now in stable condition

Naharnet - March 14 Slams Hizbullah’s ‘Provocation’ of Comparing Hariri Assassination Suspects to Saints - July 28, 2011

The March 14 General Secretariat condemned on Wednesday Hizbullah’s “provocation” of comparing four suspects in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri to saints.
It said in a statement after its weekly meeting: “These stands demonstrate the party’s nervousness ahead of the unveiling of the truth.”
The first phase of the indictment in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon included arrest warrants against four Hizbullah members.
The party had repeatedly said that it would not cooperate with the tribunal, with MP Nawwaf al-Moussawi comparing the suspects to saints over their role in Hizbullah.
The deadline for handing over the suspects is set to end soon, said the March 14 statement.
This will be followed with the publication of the indictment and the details of the accusations, it noted.
Furthermore, the statement condemned the “Hizbullah-led campaign against former Prime Minister Saad Hariri”, deeming it an attempt to politically assassinate him.
“The campaign is doomed to fail given the March 14 forces’ determination to confront any coup and illegitimate arms at the time Lebanese and Arab people have achieved the victory for dignity, freedom, justice, and democracy,” it stressed.
The General Secretariat also condemned Tuesday’s attack against a United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon patrol, labeling it as an attack against U.N. Security Council resolution 1701 and Lebanon’s commitments to international agreements.
It noted that the attack took place “at a suspicious time and it falls in favor of Israel’s interests and that of a certain regional alliance.”
“These attacks would not have taken place in the first place had it not been for Hizbullah’s hostile positions towards international agreements,” the statement said.
On the anti-regime demonstrations in Syria, the March 14 forces called on the Arab League to assume its responsibilities in the matter and work on halting the bloodshed.
“The success of the revolt will pave the way for a new chapter in ties between Syria and Lebanon and Syria and the region,” it remarked.
“It will present a chance for the establishment of civil peace in Lebanon that has long been manipulated by the Syrian regime,” added the statement.

The Daily Star - Charbel denies plan to ban non-Lebanese protests - July 27, 2011

BEIRUT:Interior Minister Marwan Charbel Wednesday denied reports that Lebanon was considering a ban on non-Lebanese protests after pro- and anti-Syrian regime demonstrations in Beirut turned violent over the weekend.
“Such a measure has not been discussed at all,” Charbel told The Daily Star by telephone.
The Saudi newspaper Okaz on Tuesday quoted well-informed political sources in Beirut as saying that the Lebanese government was “mulling a decision to ban non-Lebanese protests on Lebanese territory after weekend clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime.”
Interior Minister Marwan Charbel Wednesday denied reports that Lebanon was considering a ban on non-Lebanese protests after pro- and anti-Syrian regime demonstrations turned violent over the weekend.
The sources said the decision “comes to prevent unrest and repercussions on the Lebanese internal scene.”
Lebanese law permits demonstrations, but if the Interior Ministry believes a protest could turn violent, it asks that protesters file a request to demonstrate.
The Lebanese Army arrested at least 10 people after sticks and stones were thrown between some 200 opponents and supporters of Syria's President Bashar Assad in the Beirut neighborhood of Bir Hasan Sunday evening.
A security source has told The Daily Star that the detainees are awaiting interrogation.
The clashes came after about 2,000 people rallied outside the Syrian Embassy in Hamra in a peaceful demonstration in a show of support for Assad, who has been facing pro-democracy protests since mid-March.

The Daily Star - Christian parties condemn attack on Koura MP bodyguard - July 28, 2011

BEIRUT: A bodyguard of Koura MP Farid Habib was shot and wounded overnight outside his house in Kousba, in the Koura region of north Lebanon, a security source said Wednesday. Speaking to The Daily Star, the source identified the bodyguard as Elias Nicola Habib, a relative of the Lebanese Forces lawmaker.
He said Habib sustained several wounds to different parts of his body and was taken to St. Louis hospital in Maameltein, in the Kesrouan district north of Beirut.
Medical sources said the victim underwent surgery and was now in stable condition.
The lawmaker said an investigation into the shooting was under way and members of the Internal Security Forces and the Lebanese Army were cooperating to determine the circumstances surrounding the incident.
The security source said Elias Nicola Habib’s name had surfaced during investigations into the killing of a member of Suleiman Franjieh’s Marada Movement about two years ago.
The Marada Movement issued a statement Wednesday condemning the attack against Habib and calling on the police to carry out a quick and transparent investigation in order to catch the criminals.
The statement also warned against “the presence of a third party working to create a rift between Christians, to the detriment of everyone.”
In turn, Bsharri MP Strida Geagea praised the Marada Movement statement of condemnation, following a meeting Wednesday with Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai.
“I praised the phone call made by MP Suleiman Franjieh to Patriarch Rai during which he made it clear that the Marada Movement had nothing to do with the incident,” Geagea said.
“We consider the incident a painful one … and we hope the Lebanese will find out who was behind it.”
The Independence Movement also issued a statement condemning the attack on Habib.
“We consider this suspicious incident to be a cowardly violation of citizens’ lives and a blow to security and stability in general,” the Independence Movement statement said.
The statement added that the attack targeted the reconciliation sponsored by Bkirki in order to sow discord among Christians in the region.
“We call on the security and judicial authorities to arrest the criminals and punish them in order to put an end to chaos and suppress strife,” the statement added. 

The Daily Star - Hajjar demands details on Estonian’ release - July 28, 2011

BEIRUT: The Future Movement has lodged an official question to Cabinet over the release of seven Estonian tourists, who were kidnapped in the Bekaa in March.
On behalf of the Future parliamentary bloc, Chouf MP Mohammad Hajjar filed the question at Parliament, demanding answers about the role played by Lebanese security forces and judicial authorities in the release. 

The Daily Star - U.N. urges Lebanon to do more for non-Palestinian refugees - July 28, 2011

By Olivia Alabaster
Since the uprising in Syria, hundreds of Syrian refugees have fled into neighboring Lebanon. The Daily Star
Since the uprising in Syria, hundreds of Syrian refugees have fled into neighboring Lebanon. The Daily Star

BEIRUT: The government needs to do more for non-Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, says the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.There are around 10,000 refugees currently registered with the UNHCR in Lebanon, mostly Iraqis. The agency also deals with stateless people, numbers of which are unknown due to the lack of a census since 1932, and with internally displaced people during emergencies, the last such instance being the summer war of 2006.
As there is no law or administrative framework in Lebanon relating to refugees, and the country is not a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the issue, the United Nations agency faces “significant challenges” in Lebanon, according to Ninette Kelly, regional representative for UNHCR, who spoke at a roundtable meeting in Beirut Wednesday.
Most refugees arrive in Lebanon with a visa, but many overstay their visa as they cannot return home for fear of persecution. As such, they are considered to be here illegally.
“They are constantly at risk of being arrested and detained for long periods of time and even be deported and that is a very real and pressing risk that many fear,” Kelly said.
At any one time, around 50-100 refugees are being held in detention in Lebanon, many of whom have completed their sentence and are being held in arbitrary detention, which contravenes international law. Dominique Tohme, head of the legal unit at UNHCR in Beirut said: “There is no justification to keep them in detention.”
One recognized refugee has been placed in arbitrary detention in Lebanon for three years, Kelly said, living a “harsh existence.”
In September 2010, the Cabinet passed a decree that reiterated that Lebanon is “not a country of temporary or permanent asylum.” However, it did allow for the issuance of a three-month residence permit for recognized refugees, extendable to up to a year while the UNHCR finds entry visas for a third country of resettlement.
The UNHCR says that this is not doing enough, and has drafted proposed changes, including non-penalization of refugees for illegal entry or stay and permits allowingthem to work in certain circumstances.
Former Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud had agreed to discuss the proposals, and the agency is in continuing talks with the new government to “eliminate the risk of people being arrested and detained and even deported for the sole reason of having sought sanctuary in Lebanon.”
The agency is also worried that resettlement countries, mainly North America, Scandinavian countries, Australia and New Zealand will become less willing to cooperate with and donate to the agency if they see that the Lebanese government is unwilling to introduce amendments.
“We fear somewhat that that funding could be reduced if we’re not able to move more forward on a very minimalistic, but positive, arrangement with the government,” Kelly said.
“We are hopeful that the dialogue will continue because we are confident that it is a win-win for everyone,” Kelly added. The changes would, “work for the government of Lebanon so that they don’t have to fear the permanent residence of refugees here, but also, importantly, work for refugees.”
However Kelly praised the work of the Lebanese government in relation to Syrian refugees in north Lebanon who have fled a violent crackdown at home.
There are currently around 2,300 Syrian refugees in north Lebanon, although none is thought to remain in detention. “And for that I really have to applaud the Lebanese government,” Kelly said.
The vast majority of refugees are residing with host families, although one school is also serving as a temporary shelter.
Kelly said that the issue of shelter did have to be addressed. While some families are related to their guests, many are hosting complete strangers.
“It’s really inspirational to see so many people who have so little, that are still willing to open their homes to complete strangers.”
But as more and more time passes, she added, hosting refugee families can become a burden, so other shelter solutions were being sought.
Astrid Van Genderen Stort, protection and public information officer at UNHCR Beirut, said that tented camps were, however, a last resort. Tents, she said, give a sense of permanence that the agency tries to avoid.
Kelly also said there still exists a major misunderstanding relating to refugees in Lebanon, which also needs to be tackled.
“There are a lot of misconceptions regarding refugees in Lebanon, a lot of confusion exists between them and migrant workers.”

The Daily Star - Two men suspected of counterfeiting arrested - July 28, 2011

BEIRUT: Two men have been arrested in Tripoli on charges of counterfeiting money, according to a statement issued by the Directorate General of State Security.
The National News Agency reported that members of the Directorate General of State Security in North Lebanon raided an apartment and a store in Tripoli after allegedly witnessing suspicious activities in both places.
The police found equipment and ink tanks used to counterfeit currency in the apartment and store, and arrested the Lebanese owner and his Iraqi business partner.
The two men confessed to the crime after being questioned and were transferred to the financial public prosecutor.

The Daily Star - Rights groups condemn arrest of activist Shatila - July 28, 2011

BEIRUT: A group of human rights organizations said Wednesday that the charges against human rights activist Saadeddine Shatila are a serious breach of international human rights standards and a threat to the role of human rights defenders.
After being released Monday, Shatila was questioned by Military Judge Saqr Saqr Tuesday on charges of defamation by publishing information harming the reputation of the Lebanese Army and circulating false information.
“It is an infringement on the freedom of expression and opinion guaranteed by the constitution and international conventions, including the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights which Lebanon ratified in 1972,” said a statement released by a consortium of human rights organizations.
The statement was released by the Lebanese Center for Human Rights, Act for Human Rights, Al Karama, Restart Center and the Palestinian Human Rights Organization.
“The signatories call on the Lebanese government to abolish the penal provisions that criminalize freedom of expression and to take responsibility in protecting human rights defenders against threats, revenge, pursuit or de facto or de jure discrimination,” the statement added.
Shatila was summoned for interrogation after participating in the reporting of human rights violations in the country.