He was found guilty of murdering former Lebanese President Bachir Gemayel and 32 of his colleagues in 1982, when Shartouni blew up the Phalange headquarters as Gemayel was chairing a meeting of the party’s leadership.
The court said targeting Gemayel “aimed to generate strife and damage the foundation of the homeland.”
The Justice Council also sentenced to death in absentia Nabil Alam, who was reported to have died abroad, though the court was unable to substantiate the claim and so considered him a fugitive.
The court said he was the “key instigator of the assassination.”
The sentence, which was described as “historic” by MP Samy Gemayel, was met with loud applause in the courtroom.
Both the Phalange and the Lebanese Forces celebrated in Sassine Square in Beirut’s Achrafieh district.
The family later visited Bachir’s tomb in the town of Bikfaya, where they displayed the text of the judgment against the killers.
The Lebanese authorities arrested Shartouni after the assassination in 1982, but he was not prosecuted.
In 1990, when the Syrian Army seized the Lebanese presidential palace and besieged then-President Michel Aoun, Shartouni was smuggled from Roumieh central prison to an unknown location.
Bachir’s widow Solange said: “At last, the sentence has been passed in the name of the Lebanese people. We’ve been working hard for 35 years to get justice for Bachir and his comrades.”
She added: “I’m the wife of a martyr and the mother of a martyr, along with thousands of families who lost martyrs. The judiciary has restored some prestige to the state.”
She thanked the Justice Council and the Lebanese people, and stressed “the continuation of the march to achieve Bachir’s dream of a free, sovereign and independent Lebanon.”
A family spokesperson told Arab News: “This sentence is conclusive and won’t be reconsidered, according to the judicial law concerning fugitives, unless the fugitives are caught and retried before the Justice Council.”
Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk left a Cabinet meeting in the presidential palace when the sentence was passed, and went to the ministry to follow the security situation on the ground.
Arab News attended the Justice Council session, which was held under tight security at the Beirut Palace of Justice.
The session was attended by two groups, one supporting the SSNP and the other the Phalange and Lebanese Forces.
The sentencing was attended by Phalange leader and former Lebanese President Amine Gemayel, Solange, Bachir’s children Nadim and Yumna, and Phalange and Lebanese Forces leaders.
Before the session began, SSNP supporters marched toward the Palace of Justice. Security forces set up an iron barrier to separate them from Phalange and Lebanese Forces supporters.
Some protesters said Bachir’s assassination was not personal, but was because he dealt with Israel and helped it occupy Lebanon and commit massacres.
“What’s happening today is a political trial,” one of them said. Protesters chanted slogans in support of Shartouni, Syria and SSNP founder Antoun Saadeh.
Naoum Farah, a lawyer for the Gemayel family, said: “The sentence today confirms that what Shartouni and Alam did was not an act of resistance, but rather a terrorist crime.”
But Shartouni’s lawyer Richard Riachi said: “What Shartouni did was an act of resistance protected by international law and the UN charter. What he did was a reaction to the Israeli occupation of Lebanon.”
The court “didn’t listen to the aggrieved party,” Rayachi added.
“This is a political crime with a decent motivation. Shartouni didn’t receive any money from any party. This crime is covered by amnesty because it’s political.”
The amnesty issued at the end of Lebanon’s civil war did not include assassinations of presidents, cases referred to the Justice Council or kidnappings.