I only once came into contact with the former Director General of Lebanese Internal Security Jamil Sayyed, who has today become a controversial figure in the Lebanese political arena with regards to his pursuit of the “false witnesses” [who falsely implicated him in Hariri’s assassination]. I had heard a lot about him before I entered his office; I had heard that he was the country’s iron fist, directing and governing many figures and individuals, and that he was a prominent player on the political scene who was likely to replace Nabih Berri as Lebanese parliamentary Speaker.
I had been banned from entering Lebanon by former President Emile Lahoud, who was a narrow-minded man that was unable to manage his political battles without resorting to prosecution. I was granted special permission to enter Beirut in order to discuss the issue of my name being placed on the government’s blacklist, both in a legal and political sense. A friend of mine advised me that in order to spare myself a long and exhausting mission, I should instead go directly to see Jamil Sayyed, and that if the President was the one who had tied my hands together, then Sayyed was the one who could untie them. I went to see Mr. Sayyed and he was very pleasant, he gave up his time to assist me, despite the fact that it was his daughter’s birthday and she telephoned him asking him to return home! I will not go into what we discussed in his office, but Mr Sayyed concluded the visit by writing down this phrase on my passport: “Allowed Entry”. This declaration was sufficient to end my complex problem, although whenever I entered Beirut airport from that day on, I was always asked by the passport control officer, purely out of curiosity, why I had previously been prohibited from entering the country.
Having met Jamil Sayyed, I found that the rumours about him were indeed true. He was a smart and eloquent man with an extensive political knowledge which qualified him to be a future leader. My impression was further reinforced by his tendency to remain out of the limelight, in a country that is known for propaganda and for granting fame to all those who seek it, regardless of their position. It therefore came as a compete surprise to me when Jamil Sayyed, who was known for his low-profile, incited a media storm by screaming at the top of his lungs, in order to attract public attention to his accusations against Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Some may say that it is only natural for any figure who has been imprisoned for four years only to be released without ever having been charged or convicted of a crime to “scream” hysterically and that this is understandable. However Jamil Sayyed is appearing to the public as nothing more than a small button that “screams” whenever it is pressed. Does he want to continue in this manner, thereby erasing the political progress he has made so far, or should he instead fight this battle utilizing the legitimate weapons of the law and the media rather than appearing as an outlaw threatening the Prime Minister? Does he want to turn away from being an “innocently accused prisoner” and instead become a member of a militia? This would be an easy profession, but one that would only see him emerge during heated debates. I, and many others, used to believe that Jamil Sayyed would become a leadership figure in Lebanon, thanks to his potential, contacts, and ability to play the political game.
As he was responsible for the Lebanese security authorities at the time of Rafik Hariri’s assassination, it was natural that there would have been questions as to whether he was involved in this, regardless of whether or not he had been detained or the presence of false witnesses. If it is true that Sayyed was trying to appease Hezbollah with regards to his outburst against Hariri’s government, he will become just another member of their party. Is that what he wants?
If Sayyed has a case [regarding the issue of false witnesses] he is entitled to plead this. Taking legal action is an option that everybody respects, because it shows that Sayyed has respect for the state, its institutions and its laws, particularly considering the fact that he was once a legal official himself. However if he continues with his media outbursts, he will not get very far!