March 14, PSP want legal reform over Samaha

Michel Samaha gestures at his home in Beirut after being released on bail

Lawyers and legal experts representing the March 14 coalition and the Progressive Socialist Party called Tuesday for a reassessment of the jurisdictions of the Military Tribunal, launching their fight to reform and limit the authority of the tribunal after a recent controversial decision.

Fadi Saad, coordinator of lawyers at the Future Movement, said they have started their “legal battle to abolish the Military Court in its current formulation and reduce its jurisdiction to disciplinary cases of military personnel.”

Under the proposal, all other cases would be referred to the civil judiciary, Saad said during a news conference held at the Press Club.

He also called for establishing specialized public prosecutors with specialized investigative judges to look into cases related to terrorism, spying and assaults on national security.

“Accordingly, we emphasize that we will seek to abolish that [military] court from the life of the Lebanese with utmost effort, decisiveness and determination,” Saad added.

Criticism against the Military Court grew last week after former Minister Michel Samaha was released on bail by the Military Court of Cassation. This came despite the continuing trial against Samaha, who is expected in court Thursday.

Samaha was arrested in August 2012 and convicted last year on terrorism charges by the Military Tribunal after being recorded on video by an undercover police informant admitting to smuggling explosives from Syria into Lebanon with the intent of targeting religious and political figures in the north.

He was sentenced to four and half years in prison, but the verdict was annulled after an appeal due to complaints from March 14 politicians that his sentence was too light.

In a statement after its regular meeting Tuesday, the Future bloc denounced the release of Samaha. “The message sent by those who took the decision, and those behind it, tells the Lebanese people that they aren’t allowed to live in security and peace; that you aren’t allowed to dream of a fair and impartial judiciary,” it said.

The bloc expressed its desire to refer Samaha’s case to the Judicial Council, saying that “it will work for that through several avenues.”

The bloc also called for the establishment of a faster judicial process to keep people from people spending years in prison awaiting trial.

The youth branches of March 14, the PSP and Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya Tuesday called for a protest in front of the Military Court in Beirut at 3 p.m. Saturday.

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