Lebanese president insists on return of Syrian refugees

Lebanese children look from the rooftop of their home at a Syrian camp in the eastern Lebanese border town of Arsal. (AP/File)
Updated 25 June 2019

Lebanese president insists on return of Syrian refugees

  • Aoun calls on the UN to provide assistance to internally displaced people inside Syria

BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun has insisted on the return of Syrian refugees in Lebanon to their country, even if not to where they had been displaced.

He told a visiting US delegation on Monday that the return of refugees “can’t wait for a political solution to the Syrian crisis, as it may take time due to international tensions over the Syrian situation.”

Aoun said: “The wave of Syrian displacement has produced negative repercussions that has impacted all Lebanese sectors.”

He added: “Lebanon, which has provided all the humanitarian and logistical facilities for refugees during the Syrian war, believes that Syrian territory, except for Idlib (province) and its surrounding area, is now stable, making it easier for refugees to return.”

Aoun called on the UN to provide assistance to internally displaced people (IDPs) inside Syria in order to encourage refugees to return and contribute to their country’s reconstruction.

The wave of Syrian displacement has produced negative repercussions that has impacted all Lebanese sectors.

Michel Aoun, Lebanese president

“Lebanon continues to organize return trips for refugees in coordination with the concerned Syrian authorities, who welcome their return,” he said, adding that his country “hasn’t been informed of any returnees getting harassed.”

The head of the delegation, Frederic Hof, said that after its meetings with Lebanese officials, it will submit a report on ideas, stances and proposals to resolve the Syrian crisis and its repercussions.

Some 1 million Syrians in Lebanon are registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The Lebanese General Security said it has facilitated the return of 172,046 refugees between December 2017 and March 19, 2019, through legal crossings.


Militant sentenced to 19 years for role in Benghazi attacks

Updated 47 min 47 sec ago

Militant sentenced to 19 years for role in Benghazi attacks

  • Al-Imam is the second militant convicted in the attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American personnel
  • The head of the extremist militia who directed the siege, Ahmed Abu Khattala, was convicted in 2017 on terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 22 years in prison

NEW YORK: A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a Libyan militant to more than 19 years in prison for his role in the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, including the US ambassador.
A jury convicted Mustafa Al-Imam last year of conspiring to support the extremist militia that launched the fiery assaults on the US compounds but deadlocked on 15 other counts.
The attacks, aimed at killing American personnel, prompted a political fracas in which Republicans accused the Obama administration of a bungled response.
Al-Imam was sentenced to a total of 236 months behind bars. He is the second militant convicted in the attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, communications specialist Sean Smith and security officers Tyrone Snowden Woods and Glen Anthony Doherty.
The head of the extremist militia who directed the siege, Ahmed Abu Khattala, was convicted in 2017 on terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Khattala was accused of driving to the diplomatic mission on Sept. 11, 2012, and breaching the main gate with militants who attacked with assault rifles, grenades and other weapons.
The initial attack killed Stevens and Smith and set the mission ablaze. Woods and Doherty were later killed at a CIA annex.
On Thursday, federal prosecutors in Washington asked US District Judge Christopher Cooper to send a message to others contemplating attacks on Americans overseas, saying Al-Imam deserved the maximum 35-year sentence.
“In the current geopolitical environment, terrorists must understand that there are harsh consequences for attacking diplomatic posts and harming US personnel — particularly a US ambassador,” Assistant US Attorney John Cummings wrote in a court filing.
Defense attorneys said Al-Imam made a “tremendous mistake” by damaging and looting US property after the attacks. But they insisted there was no evidence he intended to harm any Americans, noting jurors could not reach a verdict on the murder charges Al-Imam faced.
“Mustafa Al-Imam is a frail, uneducated and simple man,” they wrote in a court filing. “He is not a fighter, an ideologue or a terrorist. He is a former convenience store clerk whose main loves in life are soccer and family.”
Al-Imam was tried in a civilian court despite the Trump administration’s earlier contention that such suspects are better sent to Guantanamo Bay. His arrest, five years after the attack, was the first publicly known operation since President Donald Trump took office targeting those accused of involvement in Benghazi.
Prosecutors acknowledged there was no evidence that Al-Imam “directly caused” the killings at the US compounds. But they said he aligned himself with Khattala and acted as his “eyes and ears” at the height of the attacks.
During a four-week trial in Washington, prosecutors pointed to phone records that showed Al-Imam was in the vicinity of the mission and placed an 18-minute call to Khattala during a “pivotal moment” of the attacks.
Al-Imam also entered the US compound, prosecutors said, and took sensitive material that identified the location of the CIA annex about a mile away from the mission as the evacuation point for Department of State personnel.
In interviews with law enforcement following his 2017 capture in Misrata, Libya, he admitted stealing a phone and map from the US mission.