BEIRUT: A Lebanese judge has charged 68 people following the Oct. 14 deadly clash in the Tayouneh neighborhood of Beirut that left seven people dead and dozens wounded.
Eighteen are in detention while the remaining 50 continue to evade the authorities.
The clash south of Beirut broke out during a Hezbollah-organized protest against Judge Tarek Bitar leading the investigation into last year’s massive Beirut port blast.
Judge Fadi Akiki, the state commissioner to the military court, charged the 68 people with crimes including murder, attempted murder, inciting sectarian strife, having unlicensed weapons and sabotage.
The five-hour long battle was fought between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, plus gunmen believed to be supporters of the Lebanese Forces party.
It took place on the border between Beirut’s Chyah and Ain Al-Rummaneh neighborhoods.
Also on Monday, Lebanon’s military intelligence agency summoned the head of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, to give testimony regarding the deadly clashes.
He was asked to appear before military investigators on Wednesday.
A security source confirmed to Arab News that the Directorate of Intelligence of the Lebanese Army summoned Geagea to the investigation branch in the Ministry of Defense.
Members of the Internal Security Forces pasted the summons on the door of Geagea’s headquarters in Maarab.
The source told Arab News that “the directorate of intelligence moved at the request of Judge Akiki, who asked army intelligence to listen to Geagea as a witness.”
The source added that “information is still being collected in these incidents, and there are detainees whose status must be decided upon.”
A judicial source indicated that a search warrant might be issued and an investigation launched against Geagea if he failed to attend the hearing.
The judicial source told Arab News that the defendants include “the Lebanese Forces official in charge of Maarab security, Simon Musallem, two members of the Amal movement, two Syrians, a Lebanese soldier, and the rest are supporters of the Lebanese Forces.”
Judge Akiki referred the detainees with the file to acting First Military Examining Magistrate Fadi Sawan.
Geagea responded to the latest development by stipulating that the Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah should also be summoned.
The secretary of the Lebanese Forces Party, Fadi Karam, tweeted: “The attack on Geagea and the forces by trying to use state agencies is an attack on Lebanese dignity and freedoms and the price for defending Lebanon’s sovereignty.
“It is an adoption of all concepts of backwardness, oppression and criminality.”
He added: “The battle now is between keeping Lebanon governed by criminals or saving it and putting it on the normal human path.”
Geagea had spent 11 years in solitary confinement inside the Ministry of Defense after being tried in 1994 on four charges of assassination of politicians — the most important of which was the assassination of former Prime Minister Rashid Karami in 1987.
Geagea denied all the charges, but was convicted and sentenced to death, which was later commuted to life imprisonment.
He was released from prison after parliament granted him a special pardon in 2005. His party entered the parliament and participated in several governments.
He ran in the presidential elections in 2014 before adopting the nomination of his political opponent, Michel Aoun.
Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi also commented on the issue of the Tayouneh events, which paralyzed the holding of cabinet sessions.
In his Sunday sermon, he defended the residents of Ain Al-Rummaneh, refusing to turn “those who defended their dignity and the security of their environment into an easy target.”
The weekend witnessed an escalating exchange of words between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces, culminating with Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem accusing the forces of “conspiring in the interest of the embassies.”
Elsewhere, Hezbollah and defendant politicians have continued to pile pressure on Judge Bitar by filing more lawsuits against him.
On Monday, the Supreme Judicial Council held a session and Judge Bitar was summoned to discuss the developments of the case.
A judicial source ruled out taking any action against Bitar — as demanded by Hezbollah — because the council does not have the right to interfere in the course of investigations conducted by him.