Geagea’s release becomes political bargaining chip

Legislators accused of supporting LF leader’s freedom bid in hope of gaining votes

By Karine Raad

BEIRUT: Strida Geagea had been assured by a number of legislators and opposition members that Parliament would hold a legislative session before the May-June elections to endorse the release of her husband, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea who has already served 11 years in prison at the Defense Ministry in Yarze.

Former Interior Minister Suleiman Franjieh said Geagea’s case has become an electoral bargaining chip for some legislators and opposition members who had promised his release to the Bsharri constituency, where the Lebanese Forces represent more than 80 percent of the voters.

Asked if he could play a mediation role with the Karami family to facilitate Geagea’s release, Franjieh said: “Every person loyal to the country should play such a role, but I believe discussions on the issue should not be held one day before the draft bill for the amendment of the General Amnesty law is discussed, as this only invites reproach.”

Geagea was jailed on charges of planning the 1987-midair assassination of former Premier Omar Karami’s brother, then Premier Rashid Karami.

Western Bekaa-Rashaya MP Robert Ghanem also highlighted the importance of turning the page on the civil war.

The MP said no effort will be spared to ensure Geagea’s release, despite Karami’s current or future opposition.

Ghanem said he hopes the outcome of the legislative session will be positive because Karami cannot stand in the way of national reconciliation, especially now after the return of former Lebanese Army Commander General Michel Aoun.

A delegation of Lebanese Forces supporters led by Butros Butros praised Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir’s national stand and asserted that protests in Martyrs’ Square will continue until Geagea is released and the future of Lebanese missing in Syria is determined.
Butros called for learning from one’s mistakes, condemning the politicians’ exchange of accusations.

On Monday, former minister Ahmad Minkara condemned those calling for the release of Geagea.

Minkara made the comment on behalf of former Prime Minister Omar Karami during a ceremony held in solidarity with the detainee Yehia Skaff and Hizbullah at the Siddiq Mosque in Bhenin.

Minkara said a convicted murderer such as Geagea should not be treated

equally with innocents who were unfairly jailed for five years without trial on the suspicion of involvement in the Dinnieh clashes.

Minkara expressed discontent about the participation of some MPs who were close friends with the Karami family in the Lebanese Forces protests to win additional votes in the upcoming polls.

“Tomorrow, they will trade your blood at cheap prices if your facilitate their access to Parliament,” he added.

According to Minkara, the freeing of Geagea will open the door for the exoneration of the assassins of former Premier Rafik Hariri, Mufti Hassan Khaled, Sheikh Sobhi Saleh and other martyrs.

“We are men of principles and we will not bargain over the blood of our martyrs,” Minkara said.