(Dr. Muhamad Mugraby: Press Conference, March 23, 2006, Liberty House, Beirut)

 The purpose of this gathering is to brief you on the case you read about in the news, i. e. my prosecution before the military court, Beirut, by reason of the testimony I gave on the conditions of human rights in Lebanon, at the European Parliament, Brussels, on November 4, 2003, i. e. two and a half years ago.   Such briefing is particularly required because what I am involved in is not a private but a public matter related to the very essence of the state of knowledge, justice and freedom of expression. You may access the full text of the said testimony, without the questions and answers, from the internet on the following URL:

 Because this is a public matter, the European Union, which is bound to Lebanon by two international treaties that obligate all their parties to fully uphold and respect human rights, made several official objections to the Lebanese Government, including a letter on behalf of the European Parliament, copy of which is available here, and six international human rights organizations issued strong statements, copies of which are also available here. In addition, the Lebanese Society of Human rights issued a statement and member of the European Parliament, Paolo Casaca, issued two interrogatories to the European Commission and the European Council. Finally, the British MP, Mr. Julian Brazier, who is a friend of Lebanon, issued a statement which he has asked me to read to you with the following text:

“Over the past few years, many of us who regard ourselves as friends of Lebanon have been encouraged by Lebanon‘s progress towards freedom and democracy. This ruling represents a severe setback. If the trial now convicts Muhamad Mugraby, it will be an insult not just to the European Parliament but all parliaments in Europe. Politicians and lawyers alike will be horrified. I do hope that, at this 11th hour, the Lebanese authorities will draw back from this unwise prosecution".

Furthermore, the action against me in the military court is not the only such prosecution I have been facing. There are two other prosecutions before the regular penal courts.  Moreover, nearly ten prosecution attempts have been commenced against me since the mid-nineties of which I have been able to defeat some and others are in suspense due to litigation before the court of appeal.  More significantly, there exists a wanton and desperate attempt to stop me from practicing law, with the aim of shutting down my law firm, which was launched through a circular in gross violation of the law issued by a former chief of a certain council who took office while he was actually subject to disciplinary prosecution, which is still in force. This is the kind of war that continues to be waged on me relentlessly. If it had been motivated by reason of accusing me with common crimes, I may have, like many others, benefited from a general or special amnesty. But the motive of the war on me is that I was and continue to be an advocate of a public cause which I do not hesitate to defend and which certain persons do not wish for it to be publicized and to prevail.

Some find an explanation for the war in progress against me for the past years in that I was in strong conflict with the regime, symbolized by a multitude of politicians and high office holders, including one former high public prosecutor, and supported by Syrian power. If so, what explains the continuation of this war after that man left his office and the Syrian troops went home?

Or is the true explanation of the war on me is that I had been raising, and continue to raise, issues that the perpetual political establishment not only does not wish to authorize but desperately wants to prevent such from being raised, with or without foreign occupation, and regardless of whether such politicians profess the roots of the problem to be in the Palestinian organizations and their arms, in the Israeli army, in the Syrian Arab army, in the Islamic resistance, or in the American or imperialistic hegemony?

For tens of years, the political establishment has found, or consciously made, itself prisoner, and made the entire Lebanese nation prisoner, within walls constituted by certain big headlines which I call “the officially recognized headlines”, in contrast with the issues which I raised and continue to raise which may be called “the forbidden issues.” From the early seventies the officially recognized issues have been exclusively covered in the media and exclusively debated by nearly the same participants in numerous conferences, held in Lebanon and abroad, under the slogan of “national dialogue”. The last of such meetings is currently taking place in Beirut.

The “official topics” have been and continue to be those rooted in the Palestine question, the arms of Palestinian organizations, the Arab-Israeli conflict, imperialism, international resolutions, the Arab or Islamic national cause, the American or French roles, and the relationship of all the foregoing to the internal communal balance of power and the business interests and wars of the spokesmen for the various communities and their religious establishments. Today the foremost topics on the agenda are Resolution 1559 et seq and the investigation into the assassination  of  Hariri and the other horrendous crimes that took place in association therewith or following thereof.

I do not deny at all the importance of the above mentioned topics and the issues associated therewith. What I object to is making them exclusive both as to subjects and to participants and I deplore shackling the Lebanese people therewith in a charged and tense atmosphere largely created by a managed media campaign. For such exclusivity constitutes an unacceptable form of tyranny over other national and human issues that are not less important and could, as I submit, rank higher in the order of priorities. These are the forbidden issues which gave rise to the public cause that was challenged with my prosecution before the military court, earlier prosecutions and prosecution attempts and the cruel war being waged on me.

On the top of the forbidden issues there are three closely linked ones, namely those of knowledge, justice and the freedom of expression. Each one constitutes a fundamental constitutional and human right to which every Lebanese and every resident on Lebanese territory is entitled.   Here is what I consider to be a practical and simple definition of each:

The issue of knowledge: This embodies securing the right of the Lebanese to opportunities of high learning which would open to each of them the doors of jobs, income and a decent standard of living in Lebanon or abroad. It raises the issue of developing the Lebanese University to play a leadership role over all other universities in the country and the issue of removing all discrimination based on the variation in the financial ability to fund higher education through introducing an ambitious program for national scholarships and long term loans with easy terms.

The issue of justice:  The essence of this issue is how to guarantee the right of the Lebanese to enjoy the security provided by the protection of law, the rule of law, and equal application of the law, through judges who are qualified as to education, training, and morality, and who are capable of exercising the judicial power of government with the requisite neutrality, subject to the standards of oversight and accountability. There could be no justice without equality. It is undeniable that the influence of the political bosses of Lebanon has been founded on the concept of absence of justice and the need of many people for such bosses in the interest of their self-defense.

The issue of freedom of expression: The framework of this issue includes all fundamental national and human issues particularly those related to the protection and defense of other constitutional and human freedoms and rights. Hence it ranks high among freedoms and rights. Without the freedom of expression knowledge is restricted and justice is denied. For there can be no knowledge or justice without the full freedom to express ideas and to criticize.

How can these freedoms and rights be secured unless protected by defenders? In theory, there are two ultimate defenders: the parliament and the fourth estate. This brings into question the issues of true democratic representation and the freedom of the media, unhampered by regulation or political and financial influence. For in the absence of true democratic representation and of media that is free and conscious of its constitutional role, the human rights to knowledge, justice and freedom of expression, as well as all other constitutional and human rights, are severely threatened and are placed at great risk, with the result that their defenders or would be defenders are sent to jail or prosecuted before military or other courts.  This is how my experience with the military court started in the year 1992. From that time, whenever some Lebanese attempted to exercise their right of free expression which they were denied, they were subjected to arrest and prosecution before the military court and most of them were insulted and tortured. I was the one defending them and suing for their rights. My experience widened with my defense of other victims of human right violations and abuse of power, whether from among city people, peasants, civil servants or other unfortunate persons.  All these facts are supported by evidence and documented.

Finally I call on all persons who see themselves part of the vibrant human forces of Lebanon, regardless of where each one of them stands vis a vis the big “official headlines”, to break silence and to give a hand in the effort to lift the ban on the issues I have been raising, and to join me in raising them.  For by securing the human rights of knowledge, justice and free expression, the resolution of the other big headlines, existing or to exist, will be greatly facilitated, or perhaps some of these headlines will disappear all together as a result of the sovereignty of knowledge, justice and freedom of expression.