BEIRUT (AFP) – A Lebanese criminal court threw out a case against firebrand Christian deputy Michel Aoun, who had been accused of making statements in 2003 deemed damaging to Lebanon’s former masters in Syria. “The criminal court, presided by Judge Michel Abu Arrage, announced its decision to drop charges against general Michel Aoun due to a lack of criminal evidence,” following two hours of deliberation, an announcement said.The court also decided to revoke two arrest warrants against Aoun, issued in October and November 2003 as part of the same case. Aoun, a former army general who returned home in May after 15 years of exile in France following the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country, was elected deputy in Lebanon’s recent legislative polls and now enjoys parliamentary immunity.He testified before a US congressional committee in September 2003 which helped pave the way for Washington’s adoption of sanctions against Syria for its “support of terrorism” and its “occupation of Lebanon”. In his testimony, Aoun accused Syria of masterminding the assassinations of two Lebanese presidents during the 1975-1990 civil war. Syria ended its political and military domination over Lebanon in April. Aoun and his lawyers were not present in court for the verdict, the last in a series of trials he was facing in Lebanon before his return from exile.

Days before Aoun’s return from exile in May, Lebanon suspended an arrest warrant against him, delayed the ruling in the congressional testimony and dropped charges against Aoun dating back to 1990 for usurping power, carrying out unlawful activities in France and embezzling public funds.