x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Lebanon's former head of security accused of slander over Hariri killing claims

Brigadier General Jamil Sayyed claims the prime minister conspired to frame him for the murder of the former leader Rafiq Hariri

Brigadier General Jamil Sayyed at a press conference in Beirut.
Brigadier General Jamil Sayyed at a press conference in Beirut.

BEIRUT // Lebanese investigators plan to question a former top security official over his claims that the prime minister and other Lebanese officials conspired to frame him for the murder in 2005 of the country's prime minister, Rafiq Hariri.

The state prosecutor, Said Mirza, issued a summons yesterday for Brig Gen Jamil Sayyed, the former head of the country's general security department. The summons said that at a press conference on Sunday, Mr Sayyed slandered the prime minister Saad Hariri, Rafiq Hariri's son. Mr Sayyed also demanded that the state pursue charges against security officials who he said manufactured evidence that he was involved in the assassination of the prime minister in 2005.

The Internal Security Forces Criminal Investigation Bureau (ISF) will investigate Mr Sayyed, "for threatening state security, slamming the constitution, threatening Prime Minister Saad Hariri and attacking him and verbally attacking the judiciary and state apparatuses," according to the summons. Mr Sayyed spent four years in prison on suspicion of conspiring to kill Rafiq Hariri in a car bomb attack. But last year the Special Tribunal for Lebanon ordered that he be released after it determined that the arrests of Mr Sayyed and three other security officials in 2005 were unwarranted. Since his release, Mr Sayyed has repeatedly charged that his arrest was orchestrated by allies of Saad Hariri.

In the press conference on Sunday, Mr Sayyed demanded that Mr Hariri take a lie detector test to determine if he bribed witnesses before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to implicate Mr Sayyed and his colleagues. In a phrase that prosecutors contend constituted a physical threat, Mr Sayyed said that he would take his rights "with his own hands". The ISF's intelligence bureau initially warned Mr Sayyed that verbal attacks on the police, judiciary and political leaders could earn him a legal rebuke. On Wednesday, prosecutors and the justice minister Ibrahim Najjar watched a recording of the press conference and concluded the statements warranted a formal legal investigation.

Police officials visited Mr Sayyed's home in Beirut yesterday and were told that he was in Paris to get documents from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that he claims will prove his case. It is unclear if the tribunal plans to cooperate or when Mr Sayyed will return. Mr Sayyed's son, Malek, in an interview with the Syrian newspaper al Watan, said his family wants "compensation and accountability". "We don't mean financial compensation as some have said," he said. "We call for eliminating those who were behind the arrest of the generals."

Malek Sayyed, a lawyer, also demanded that Mr Mirza, the state prosecutor, and Col Wissam al Hassan, the chief of the intelligence bureau, be prosecuted. They "have created false witnesses and caused the arrest of the four generals", he said. The battle, which many see as a proxy fight by pro-Syrian factions including Hizbollah to discredit the government and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, has threatened the relative recent stability of Beirut's political environment.

A key supporter of Mr Hariri from the 'March 14' movement, which opposes Syrian and Iranian interference in Lebanon, alleged on Wednesday that similar attacks on the judiciary and political leadership were tantamount to a coup. "Hizbollah revealed this plan itself when it announced its refusal of the facts," said Fares Soaid, who has blamed Hizbollah for killing Hariri since 2005. "It aims to change the situation through a general who represents the previous security regime."

@Email:mprothero@thenational.ae