Skip to main content

Lebanese ex-minister jailed for 13 years and hard labour for terrorism

Michel Samaha jailed in retrial for transporting explosives to assassinate political and religious figures at behest of Syria
Samaha was Lebanon's former information minister (AFP)

A Lebanese military court has sentenced former information minister Michel Samaha to 13 years in prison with hard labour on Friday for attempting to carry out "terrorist acts", a judicial source told AFP.

Samaha was convicted of transporting explosives to carry out attacks and assassinations of political and religious figures in Lebanon with the help of Syrian security services. 

The ex-minister was arrested in 2012 and sentenced in May 2015 to four and a half years in prison, but that conviction was quashed a month later and a retrial ordered.  

"The prosecution asked for the death penalty but he was sentenced to 13 years with hard labour," the judicial source said. 

Under Lebanese law, Samaha has already served three years, meaning he faces another 10 in jail.

The former minister was also stripped of his right to vote or stand for public office, the source said.

Samaha, a Christian politician and former adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, admitted during his previous trial that he had transported the explosives from Syria for use in attacks in Lebanon.

But he argued he should be acquitted because he was a victim of entrapment.

His previous sentence was denounced as "scandalous" by Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi as it would have seen him released at the end of 2015 because of time served.

Former prime minister Saad Hariri - Lebanon's leading Sunni Muslim politician, whose father Rafiq was assassinated in a 2005 truck bombing in Beirut - welcomed the new verdict on Twitter.

"The terrorist Samaha will return today to prison, which is the right place for anyone that plans to kill innocents and drag Lebanon into sectarian strife and civil war," Hariri said. 

Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said the sentence was "a slap in the face for the terrorist, criminal regime in Damascus".

Syria maintained a nearly 30-year presence in Lebanon during and after the 1975-90 civil war, finally withdrawing its troops in the face of the mass protests that followed Rafiq Hariri's 2005 murder, which was widely blamed on Shia militant group Hezbollah and its supporters in Damascus and Tehran.

A series of killings of prominent Lebanese opponents of the Damascus regime followed its withdrawal.