Was Lebanon’s Michel Samaha ‘tried’ before his trial?

Mazen Hayek
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Why is former Lebanese information minister Michel Samaha still in prison till this day, a friend of mine – linked to the Lebanese opposition – recently asked me.

Samaha was arrested last year for colluding with the Syrian regime to destabilize Lebanon.

My friend noted the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is now, more than ever, reassured by a recent speech from Hezbollah’s leader, in which Hassan Nasrallah firmly implied the military breakdown of the Syrian regime would not be allowed to happen.

“Along with the Syrian people, Michel Samaha is the only one – outside Syria – paying the price of the ‘universal war’ against the Syrian regime,” my friend stated, adding that “Assad will not accept Samaha’s imprisonment.

“Samaha went to prison because of betrayal, treachery and ‘politics,’ and he will get out of prison owing to his loyalty and ‘politics’ too,” my friend explained.

While I was trying to understand these statements, my friend also stated that immediately after Samaha’s arrest, official records of the initial investigation process were leaked. Then, it was reported that investigators had audio-visual recorded “confessions” attributed to him.

Everyone acted as if he was already convicted and proven guilty, and some people even went on to described him as a “criminal” and “terrorist.” But this all happened before the start of his trial.

Missing links in Samaha’s arrest

Where is the supposed confidentiality of his investigation, the presumption of innocent until proven guilty, and the right to self-defense through a fair and transparent trial? We have not yet heard Samaha’s personal stance on what happened with him, before and after his arrest.

We only heard what the ‘political’ team against Samaha has been circulating, at a time when most of the oppositional groups kept mum. This was perhaps except for Lebanese Major General Jamil Sayyed, my friend noted, whose enthusiasm lessened when he was interrogated about accompanying Samaha during the famous “explosives trip” from Damascus to Beirut.

My friend ended our conversation in his own firm way: “on both logical and practical levels, Samaha has nothing to do with the assassination of Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, [chief of the Intelligence Bureau of the Internal Security Forces], whose name was linked to the “achievement” of arresting Samaha.

On the contrary, Samaha’s ‘fair’ case was damaged by that crime and its aftermath , my friend said, noting that Samaha was in prison when the horrible assassination took place, completely disconnected from the world except for the recorded visits by his family members.

“What applies to Samaha should also apply to a number of government officials and political figures, whose participation in the unrest in Syria has now been confirmed. Michel Samaha should come out of prison or they should all be arrested with him,” my friend added.

While this oppositional friend ended his “lecture,” one question remains: What will prevail in Samaha’s case when the trial begins next month: logic or accusations?

This article was first published in the Lebanon-based Annahar on May 3, 2013.


Mazen Hayek is a MarComms & Media practitioner in MENA; weekly op-ed columnist in Annahar, he can be followed on Twitter: @HayekMG

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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