Monday, October 11, 2010

Issue of False Witnesses Splits Lebanese Government

Future Movement MP Nouhad Mashnouq called for Prime Minister Saad Hariri to commit political suicide and stand down in response to the deadlock facing the government caused by continued quarrelling over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is investigating the 2005 assassination of his father and former Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri.

Amongst other contentious issues is that of false witnesses. The government is split as to when to try these witnesses: before or after the denouement of the UN tribunal.

There is anticipation of “irreversible damage that could not be corrected” if this issue continues to stir conflict on the Lebanese scene.

The disagreement emerged over the weekend following a report by Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar in which he said the Justice Council lacks authority to look into the false witnesses' issue since its role "is restricted to crimes committed against state security, spying activities, murders that relate to international law and undermining the state's authority."

Those wishing to delay any trial claim postponement will protect the identity of any witnesses who are to testify before the International tribunal.

Hezbollah questions the neutrality of the tribunal calling that false witnesses be tried before the publishing of any indictments.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah cited the case of four former Lebanese generals jailed for nearly four years in connection with the killing before being released for lack of evidence last year. He noted that the court agreed to let one general see his secret case file, but the prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, appealed the decision.

While some analysts said opposition ministers might withdraw from the Cabinet over the impasse, others dismissed the possibility of bringing down the government since “it would be impossible to form one excluding Hariri.”

“Hariri is the leader of the largest parliamentary bloc and the only leader of the Sunnis in Lebanon and thus no wise man can think of forming a Cabinet without him,” Mashnouq said.

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