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Lebanon: MP charged with hiding suspect in Tripoli bombing - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Lebanese army soldiers patrol a street in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on October 29, 2013 as army deployed following a week of clashes between supporters and opponents of Syria's regime. (AFP PHOTO/IBRAHIM CHALHOUB)

Lebanese army soldiers patrol a street in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on October 29, 2013 as army deployed following a week of clashes between supporters and opponents of Syria’s regime. (AFP PHOTO/IBRAHIM CHALHOUB)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—A Lebanese MP was charged with involvement in the bombing of two mosques in the Lebanese city of Tripoli in August on Tuesday.

Ali Eid, the Alawite leader of the pro-Assad Arab Democratic Party (ADP), was charged by military prosecutors with hiding a suspect in the bombings from the authorities and then smuggling him into Syria.

The bombings, which killed almost 50 people and wounded over 100, caused a dramatic escalation in sectarian tensions in the city, leading to fatal clashes between Sunni and Alawite inhabitants of Tripoli, and the deployment of the Lebanese armed forces in a bid to keep order.

A source close to the investigation into the bombings told Asharq Al-Awsat that Eid is “to appear before a military tribunal judge…to testify and defend himself against the relevant accusations.”

Following investigations by Lebanese security forces, the military prosecutor in charge of the case, Judge Saqr Saqr, charged Ali Eid and his driver, Ahmed Mohamed Ali, with hiding a suspect and helping him evade justice. The suspect is believed to be Ahmed Merhi, a member of the ADP.

According to Article 222 of Lebanon’s Penal and Sentencing code, Eid and Ali could face two years in prison if found guilty.

The source said, “The judicial investigation will follow legal procedures outlined in the criminal procedure code, starting with the first military investigating judge Riad Abu Ghida. He will question Ahmed Ali and issue his view with regards to his arrest. He will also determine a time to question Eid and issue his judgment in accordance with regulations.”

“If he does not comply with the investigation or does not attend, he will be served with an arrest warrant in absentia. This matter also applies to the other two defendants, Sukaina Ismail and Shehadeh Shadoud,” the source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Eid has previously refused a summons for questioning in August, citing a “conspiracy” against Tripoli’s Alawite community.

In response, Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that Eid should testify before a competent court.

Mikati said Eid should “be present before an investigative judge to hear his testimony. As long as he denies his relationship with any of the arrested persons, suspected of planning the escape of Ahmed Merhi, accused of the Al-Taqwa Mosque bombing.”

Mikati stressed that “the compassionate Alawite sect is part of the [social] fabric of Tripoli, and these accusations are not directed against them.”

“I do not see and justification for the uproar we are witnessing on the matter, as long as the judiciary has taken charge of the case,” he added.

The Lebanese Minister of Interior in the caretaker government announced that he will not approve the request filed by the ADP and the city’s Alawite Islamic Council on Tuesday, to hold a peaceful demonstration at the end of the week. The Minister informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the reasons for my refusal are known.”

A spokesman for the ADP, Abdul Latif Saleh, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Nobody wants a real solution in Tripoli,” adding, “We will not drag on any confrontations with anyone, but the message has been received and they do not want to achieve reconciliation, nor do they want to say: enough blood.”

Salah alleged that the timing of the charges was suspicious, as it coincided with Eid’s call for a peaceful protest march through Tripoli.

Salah said, “History will record that [the Arab Democratic Party] and the Alawite sect have preserved the local peace.”

He added that his party aims to prevent “the outbreak of sectarian strife and civil war in Lebanon.”