Lebanon ex-minister jailed for 13 years on 'terror' charges



BEIRUT, LEBANON- A Lebanese military court sentenced former information minister Michel Samaha to 13 years in prison with hard labour on Friday for attempting to carry out "terrorist acts", a judicial source told AFP.
Samaha was convicted of transporting explosives to carry out attacks and assassinations of political and religious figures in Lebanon with the help of Syrian security services.



The ex-minister was arrested in 2012 and sentenced in May 2015 to four and a half years in prison, but that conviction was quashed a month later and a retrial ordered.
"The prosecution asked for the death penalty but he was sentenced to 13 years with hard labour," the judicial source said.
Under Lebanese law, the actual time Samaha has been sentenced to amounts to around 10 years.
The former minister was also stripped of his right to vote or stand for public office, the source said.
Samaha, a Christian politician and former adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, served as information minister from 1992 to 1995.
He admitted during his previous trial that he had transported explosives from Syria for use in attacks in Lebanon, but argued he should be acquitted because he was a victim of entrapment.
Former prime minister Saad Hariri -- Lebanon's leading Sunni Muslim politician, whose ex-premier father Rafiq was assassinated in a 2005 truck bombing in Beirut -- welcomed the new verdict on Twitter.
"The terrorist Samaha will return today to prison, which is the right place for anyone that plans to kill innocents and drag Lebanon into sectarian strife and civil war," Hariri said.
Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said the sentence was "a slap in the face for the terrorist, criminal regime in Damascus."
Syria maintained a nearly 30-year presence in Lebanon during and after the 1975-90 civil war, finally withdrawing its troops in the face of the mass protests that followed Hariri's 2005 murder, which was widely blamed on Shiite militant group Hezbollah and its supporters in Damascus and Tehran.
A series of killings of prominent Lebanese opponents of the Damascus regime followed its withdrawal.
Since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Beirut has sought to maintain an official policy of neutrality.
But the rival blocs headed by Hariri and Hezbollah are bitterly divided over the conflict, with the former supporting the rebels and the latter the Damascus regime.
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Friday, April 8th 2016
AFP
           


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