Lebanese ex-minister, jailed over Syria plot, is released on bail

This picture taken in June 2003 shows former Lebanese Information Minister Michel Samaha (AP)

A former Lebanese minister who is close to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was released on bail on Thursday after serving a jail term for smuggling explosives into Lebanon from Syria and planning attacks, the national news agency said.

Former Information Minister Michel Samaha was sentenced to 4 and a half years in prison in May, having been detained since August 2012.

A court released him on bail on Thursday secured by 150 million Lebanese pounds ($100,000).

The decision to release him drew criticism from Assad's opponents in Lebanon including former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.

"Regardless of the reasons behind the court's decision to release Samaha, it (remains) a decision to release a criminal who is involved in one of the dirtiest crimes against Lebanon," Hariri said in a statement.

The arrest of Samaha and indictments against two Syrian officials in the case marked a major break with the past. Top Syrian officials have previously denied the charges but have not commented on the verdict.

Syria played a powerful role in its smaller neighbor even after it withdrew troops in 2005 under international pressure following the killing of Hariri's father, former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, in a huge Beirut car bomb.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47