(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Press federation to press charges against killers of slain journalist

[Lebanon] Car bomb in which Gebran Tueini, editor in chief of leading Lebanese daily Al-Nahar was killed. [Date picture taken: 12/04/2005]
Mahmoud Kheir/IRIN

The Lebanese Press Federation announced it would press murder charges against those involved in the killing of journalist and Member of Parliament Gebran Tueini, who died in a car-bomb attack on 12 December 2005 in the capital, Beirut.

According to a statement, federation president Mohammad Baalbaki commissioned has lawyers to "file a lawsuit against everyone which the investigation proves to be a perpetrator, accomplice, instigator or participant in this hideous crime."

As editor-in-chief of independent daily Al-Nahar and a vocal anti-Syrian human rights advocate, Tueini "became a target to the enemies of free opinion," the federation stated.

The lawsuit comes in addition to the legal case filed by Tueini’s family.

"Under Lebanese law, all parties who consider themselves morally harmed by Tueini's killing have the right to file a lawsuit," said Ibrahim Halawi, a legal advisor for the federation.

A 40-year-old Syrian man, Abdel-Karim Abdel-Qader, present at the site of Tueini’s assassination, was arrested a week ago in connection with the killing, police sources in Beirut said. The Lebanese judiciary is currently investigating phone calls he allegedly made to Syria and Lebanon minutes before and after the blast.

"We suspect he called Syria to inform them of Tueini's location, then called a Lebanese number belonging to the person in charge of triggering the explosion, and then to Syria to report the result," said a police source.

Tueini had relentlessly accused Syria of plotting to undermine Lebanon and recover its control of the country, media reports said.

Damascus withdrew its troops from Lebanon in April 2005 in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1559, following mass protests in the wake of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri two months earlier.

Syria had stationed troops in the country for 30 years following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and enjoyed de facto control over policymaking in Beirut.

An ongoing UN probe into the death of Hariri has already established that the killing “could not have happened without the knowledge of Syrian intelligence.”

Damascus, however, continues to strenuously deny the allegations, saying it is being framed for the crime by external forces.

Samir Kassir, a well known Al-Nahar columnist was killed on 2 June of last year, and former Lebanese Communist Party Secretary-General George Hawi was assassinated shortly afterward. May Chidiac, another journalist known for her anti-Syrian position, was seriously injured after a bomb blew up her car last September.

Syria has been blamed for these attacks as well, but again denies involvement.

Syrian suspects in the case can be extradited and tried in Lebanon, Halawi said.

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