Former Lebanese militia chief loses bid to sue Israel

The Supreme Court

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A former Lebanese militia chief has lost a 15-year-old attempt to pursue a case via the Israeli courts for compensation over his alleged torture while imprisoned in the Jewish state.

The Supreme Court, reversing a ruling it handed down in 2011, said Mustafa Dirani, who was released in a prisoner swap and repatriated to Lebanon in 2004, could not proceed with the lawsuit because he had rejoined the ranks of a “terrorist group...working toward Israel’s destruction”.

A relative of Dirani said the ruling was politicised. “The judiciary is trying to cover up Israel’s crimes,” he said, declining to be named. Israeli military forces occupied parts of southern Lebanon from 1978 to 2000.

Israeli commandos abducted Dirani from his home in southern Lebanon in 1994 in the hope of trading him for information on missing Israeli air force navigator Ron Arad. Dirani’s Shi’ite Muslim Amal militia captured Arad in 1986.

“Shortly after his return to Lebanon, Dirani announced the merger of his movement with the Hezbollah terror organization,” the court decision said. “He offered his services to the group and took up a position in the Hezbollah leadership.”

Amal militiamen fought Israeli forces during the occupation. Its armed wing was formally dissolved after Lebanon’s civil war ended in 1990 and it remains a close political ally of Hezbollah.

Dirani, now in his early 60s, told interrogators he had handed airman Arad to Iran, but later said his confession was false and forced out of him. Arad’s fate has never been clarified. Israel officially considers him missing in action.

In 2000, while still in Israeli detention, Dirani filed a lawsuit demanding six million shekels (now $1.25 million) in compensation, saying he had been sodomised on the order of an Israeli secret service interrogator. Israel denied this.

Soon after Dirani returned to Lebanon, the Israeli government failed to persuade a three-judge Supreme Court panel to quash further proceedings. But two years ago, the court agreed to reconsider the appeal in a wider seven-justice forum.

On Thursday, it ruled 4-3 against Dirani, saying that allowing him recourse to the courts of a country he sought to destroy defied logic.