| 7 February 2023, Tuesday |

Court charges Lebanon’s Geagea over Beirut violence, judicial source says

According to a judicial source and TV Al Jadeed, a Lebanese military court has accused Christian politician Samir Geagea for deadly confrontations in Beirut in October, a move that could exacerbate political tensions two months before an election.

The charge against Geagea was political, according to a member of Geagea’s Lebanese Forces (LF) party, and the inquiry into the incident was political from the start.

Judge Fadi Akiki told Al Jadeed that Geagea was accused two days ago based on “new information” on the Teyouneh events, Beirut’s bloodiest street violence in a decade. Akiki could not be reached for comment by Reuters right away.

Seven persons were killed in fighting along an old frontline of the 1975-90 civil war, all of them adherents of the Shi’ite Muslim party Hezbollah and its Shi’ite partner the Amal Movement.

Any attempt to detain Geagea would almost certainly be met with resistance by his party, posing a risk of unrest just two months before the parliamentary election, according to Carnegie Middle East Center’s Mohanad Hage Ali.

Last October, Geagea was summoned to a military intelligence hearing on the violence, but he did not show up.

The violence began on Oct. 14 when people gathered for a Hezbollah-organized protest against the court probing the 2020 Beirut port blast.

Hezbollah, which is highly armed and backed by Iran, accused the LF of staging an ambush and murdering civilians in an attempt to pull Lebanon into civil war.

Geagea, a staunch Hezbollah critic with close ties to Saudi Arabia, has categorically disputed this, as has Hezbollah’s claim that the LF – which had a significant militia during the civil war – has re-established one.

According to Geagea, the disturbance began when Shi’ite party members attacked the Christian neighborhood of Ain al-Remmaneh, vandalizing cars and injuring four individuals before firing a shot.

Hezbollah secured a majority in the 2018 election with the help of parties who see its heavy arsenal as a benefit to Lebanon.

  • Reuters