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Lebanese military court charges Lebanese Forces leader Geagea over deadly Beirut violence

Samir Geagea, the leader of the far-right Lebanese Forces (LF) political party, speaks during an interview with Reuters news agency at his residence in Maarab, Lebanon, on November 29, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

A Lebanese military court has charged leading Christian politician and executive chairman of the far-right Lebanese Forces (LF) political party, Samir Geagea, over the deadly violence in the capital Beirut last October.

The charges stem from an incident on October 14, 2021, when LF militiamen fired from rooftops at hundreds of peaceful supporters of the Hezbollah resistance movement and its ally Amal party at a protest by the Beirut Justice Palace.

The protesters had gathered to demand that the judge leading a probe into the 2020 Beirut port blast step down after attempting to summon high-profile political figures for questioning.

The shooting sparked hours-long clashes in nearby neighborhoods. At least seven people were killed and more than 30 others wounded.

In a speech following the deadly violence, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah described the Lebanese Forces as the “biggest threat” to Christians in Lebanon, warning the former militia group against “miscalculations” that would plunge the country into a civil war.

Separately, the deputy chief of Hezbollah also attacked the judge leading the investigation into the disastrous Beirut port explosion, saying he was causing trouble for the country by politicizing the case and therefore had to be dismissed.

Speaking at a ceremony in southern Beirut on October 23 last year, Sheikh Naim Qassem said that militiamen with the Lebanese Forces triggered the sedition in Tayyoune neighborhood by firing shots at peaceful protesters.

 “We managed to thwart the seditious plot through patience and self-restraint. We will, however, follow up on investigations and their results. We will act according to law, and will punish the perpetrators in order to stop those who tamper with people’s lives,” the senior Hezbollah official said.

He added that Tarek Bitar, the judge in charge of investigating the catastrophic Beirut port explosion, had created a grave crisis in Lebanon.

“He tends to politicize the probe and pin the blame on others. He is not reliable anymore. The last thing we heard was that families of the victims had grown very suspicious of his behavior. He is responsible for the great sedition in Tayyoune,” he said.

“Bitar would better quit his post for the problems and misfortunes he has created, for a lack of public trust in him to mete out justice, and for the status quo to stabilize,” Sheikh Qassem noted.

Bitar had for months tried to question former ministers Ali Hasan Khalil, Ghazi Zeiter, Nouhad Machnouk, Youssef Finianos, as well as former prime minister Hasan Diab.

The judge had also asked to summon General Security chief Major General Abbas Ibrahim and State Security head Major-General Tony Saliba. However, the Interior Ministry and Higher Defense Council did not grant him permission to do so.

More than 200 people were killed and about 6,500 wounded in the explosion at Beirut’s port in August 2020, when a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate, which had been stored unsafely at the port for years, detonated.

The explosion has left Lebanon’s economy — already reeling from multiple crises, including the breakdown of its banking system, spiraling inflation and the coronavirus pandemic — in tatters.

Western meddling and US sanctions have worsened the deteriorating financial and political crisis. 

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