According to a military court official who spoke to AFP on Wednesday, a man suspected of fatally shooting an Irish UN peacekeeper in south Lebanon has been released from detention after nearly a year.
The court released the suspect pending a trial, the official said.
On December 15, Private Sean Rooney, 23, was killed and three others were wounded after a UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) convoy came under fire in south Lebanon — a stronghold of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group.
“A military court… ordered on Thursday the release of the detainee suspected of killing the Irish peacekeeper” after he had been interrogated twice, the official told AFP, adding that he was freed on bail.
The suspect was part of the group that surrounded the UN patrol, the official said, adding that “he may have opened fire… but there is no conclusive evidence proving he was the one who injured the Irish peacekeeper, causing his death.”
The only suspect detained in the case, he was handed over to the authorities by Hezbollah in December, a security official had previously told AFP.
“We continue to urge that all perpetrators be held accountable, and for justice for Private Rooney and his family,” UNIFIL said.
Lebanon’s ailing justice system has long been hampered by political interference.
UNIFIL said it was aware of reports of the man’s release, adding in a statement on Wednesday that the force was “working to confirm this information with the military court.”
In June, a Lebanese judge had accused five men, including the suspect who was released last week, of killing the peacekeeper.
UNIFIL acts as a buffer between Lebanon and Israel, neighbors who remain technically at war. It operates in the south near the border.
Hezbollah security chief Wafic Safa has said the killing was “unintentional.”