Lebanese judiciary sentences killer of Bachir Gemayel to death

Former Lebanese President Amine Gemayel, front row, left, and his son Sami MP, front row, second left; second row: Solange, third left, Bachir’s children Nadim, second left, and Yumna, left, at the court session in Beirut on Friday.
Updated 21 October 2017
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Lebanese judiciary sentences killer of Bachir Gemayel to death

BEIRUT: Habib Shartouni, a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), was sentenced to death in absentia on Friday by the Lebanese Justice Council.
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.


Gaza: Palestinian territory ravaged by war and poverty

Updated 50 sec ago
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Gaza: Palestinian territory ravaged by war and poverty

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: The Gaza Strip, run by Islamist movement Hamas, is a poverty-stricken and overcrowded Palestinian coastal enclave under a crippling blockade by Israel, with which it has fought several wars.
After Israel tightened the blockade on Tuesday by suspending fuel deliveries amid fears of a new all-out conflict, here is some background.
On the Mediterranean coast, Gaza is one of the most densely populated territories on the planet with around two million Palestinians squeezed into 362 square kilometers (140 square miles).
After the creation of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948 and the Arab-Israeli war of 1948-1949, Gaza came under the administration of neighboring Egypt.
It was seized by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967.
In 2005 Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers, ending 38 years of occupation.
But it imposed a blockade in 2006, restricting the cross-border movement of people and goods following the capture of a soldier by Hamas militants on Israeli territory.
The blockade was tightened a year later after the Islamists ousted troops loyal to the rival Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
The only entrance to Gaza not controlled by Israel is at Rafah on the Egyptian border. This too has been almost completely closed since jihadists launched an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula after the military overthrew Egypt’s elected Islamist president Muhammad Mursi in 2013.
In May 2018 Israel began working on a “new and impenetrable” coastal barrier just north of Gaza to prevent the possibility of Palestinians entering by sea.
The Gaza Strip has almost no industry and suffers from a chronic lack of water and fuel. Its GDP losses caused by the blockade are estimated at more than 50 percent, the World Bank says.
Unemployment stands at 45 percent and more than two-thirds of the population depends on aid.
A reconciliation deal in 2017 between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority raised hopes of an improvement in the harsh conditions in the enclave, but talks have stalled.
In January 2018 UN Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned the Gaza Strip was on the verge of “full collapse.”
Donors in March greenlighted a project to build a desalination plant in Gaza, where more than 95 percent of water is unfit for drinking due to overpumping of groundwater.
Israel has carried out several military operations against Palestinian militants in Gaza, with thousands killed.
“Operation Hot Winter” in February-March 2008, in response to the killing of an Israeli by a rocket fired from Gaza, left more than 120 Palestinians dead in just days.
It led to weeks of unrest, with rocket fire from Gaza and attacks from Israel, in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed until a truce in June.
A vast air offensive, “Operation Cast Lead,” was launched in December 2008 to stop Palestinian rocket fire into Israel. It ended with a cease-fire in January 2009 and 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.
In November 2012 “Operation Pillar of Defense” kicked off with a missile strike that killed top Hamas commander Ahmed Jaabari. In the ensuing eight-day flare-up, 177 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed.
In July 2014 Israel launched “Operation Protective Edge” to stop the rocket fire and destroy tunnels used for smuggling and the movement of militants.
It lead to a war that left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side and 74 on the Israeli side.