ABU DHABI (AFP) – A Syrian former spy who was a prosecution witness in the inquiry into the assassination of Lebanon’s ex-premier Rafik Hariri was on Monday given six months in jail and deportation for entering the UAE on a forged Czech passport.
The Supreme State Security Court in Abu Dhabi pronounced its verdict, which cannot be appealed, in the presence of defendant Mohammed Zuhair Siddiq, a former member of Syria’s intelligence services.
“The penalty ends in mid-October,” defence lawyer Fahd al-Sabhan told reporters after the verdict was announced, referring to the time his client has already spent in custody.
“We have previously annulled the request that he be handed in to the Syrian authorities. But he could be deported or not deported depending on the sovereign executive decision.”
During the hearing Siddiq asked the court how he could be deported when he has a court order that bans his being handed over to Damascus.
Siddiq, in initial reports of the United Nations inquiry commission into the February 2005 killing of Hariri in a huge seafront bomb blast in Beirut, was described as a key witness.
Nicknamed the “king witness,” Siddiq claimed that Lebanon’s former pro-Syrian president Emile Lahoud and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave the order to kill the wealthy businessman who opposed the grip exercised by Damascus over its tiny neighbour.
However, Siddiq later recanted, and Lebanese and Syrian judicial authorities accused him of lying.
In May, the prosecutor at the international tribunal charged with bringing Hariri’s killers to justice said Siddiq was no longer a credible witness and was of no interest to the inquiry.
Siddiq was arrested in France in 2005 under an international warrant as part of the investigation into Hariri’s killing.
The French judicial authorities refused to hand him over to Lebanon because of the “absence of a guarantee that he would not be subject to the death penalty.”
He was freed in February 2006 and disappeared from his French home in 2008, only to reappear in the United Arab Emirates.