BEIRUT, April 8 – Former Lebanese minister, Michel Samaha, who is known for his close ties to Bashar al-Assad, was sentenced to nine years and nine months in prison on Friday, after a retrial on charges of smuggling explosives and planning attacks. Worth mentioning that the latter was detained in August 2012 and sentenced in 2015 to four and a half years.
The Lebanese court sentenced him to a longer term, 13 years, noting that in Lebanon a prison year is equivalent to nine months. Earlier, Samaha confessed to the charges before the first sentence was handed down, and gave details of a plot allegedly devised with Syria’s security chief Ali Malmuk, noting that he was freed on bail in January pending a retrial. On the matter, Ashraf Rifi, Lebanese Justice Minister had described the shorter sentence as a mockery of justice.
Moreover, where Syria is Lebanon’s largest neighbor that had long played a dominant role in the tiny Mediterranean country before its civil war, two Syrian officials were shown to have hands in the case which produced indictments against these two officials including a top general, exposed Lebanon’s political divisions between parties that support and oppose Assad.
Only last February did Rifi resign, partly due to Samaha’s release on bail, which he said showed the Shi’ite movement Hezbollah, an ally of Assad, was causing paralysis in state institutions. His bail was also cited by Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir as evidence of Hezbollah’s growing clout in the country, as Riyadh cut aid to Lebanon as part of efforts to isolate its main regional rival Iran.