Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Thursday announced that he will not appear before the Military Court over the Tayyouneh clashes if Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is not also summoned.
“If ‘Hizbullah’s commissioner’ to the Military Court truly wants to hear my testimony, I am ready, but he must first listen to Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s testimony,” said Geagea in an interview with MTV.
“The days of the Our Lady of Salvation Church are over and we will never allow a return to those days,” he added, referring to a deadly 1994 bombing against a church in Zouk that was blamed on him. Geagea spent 11 years in solitary confinement in the wake of the incident before he was eventually acquitted. The LF accused the so-called Syrian-Lebanese security apparatus of staging the bombing in order to frame the LF and its leader.
A judicial official told AFP earlier in the day that State Commissioner to the Military Court Fadi Akiki has “instructed the army intelligence to summon Geagea and take his statement based on information provided by arrested LF members.” Twenty-six people were arrested after the violence in Tayyouneh, most of them LF members, the official added.
Hizbullah and Amal have accused the LF of “deploying snipers on rooftops” and opening fire on “peaceful protesters.” The Lebanese Forces has meanwhile denied using snipers while noting that it was Ain al-Remmaneh’s residents who “defended themselves” in the face of an “invasion” by the supporters of the two groups. Geagea also said recently that one of the protesters opened fire from a handgun, injuring four people, before any shots were fired from Ain al-Remmaneh.
“We always make correct calculations and our choice is not war,” Geagea said in Thursday’s interview, responding to remarks by Nasrallah.
“Where is this Christian canton that Sayyed Nasrallah spoke of?” he asked.
“Let no one think that the confrontation with Hizbullah is military. The confrontation is political par excellence,” he added.
Denying that the LF has armed groups, Geagea said: “Rifles exist in all Lebanese houses but military organizations are something else.”
As for the remarks that Nasrallah addressed to Christians, Geagea said: “Hizbullah’s project is the most project that contradicts with the Christians’ project for Lebanon, which is preserving the state’s entity, so Sayyed Hassan should calm down.”
“I challenge Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to prove that we have anything to do with Daesh and al-Nusra,” he added.
Asked whether the LF has 15,000 fighters as political accusations and media reports have suggested, Geagea said: “We do not have fighters. We rather have 35,000 party members.”
Responding to a question, Geagea said the LF has no problem in the referral of the Tayyouneh incidents to the Judicial Council but added that “there should not be manipulation.”
“The Tayyouneh clashes were neither an ambush nor a sniping operation. Hizbullah rather wanted to stage a ‘new May 7’ to halt the probe into the Beirut port blast,” he said.
“I don’t know who fired the first shot, but what I know is that the first four wounded were injured in Ain el-Remmaneh,” he added.
Told that the dead belong to one side — the side of Hizbullah and Amal — Geagea said “let the investigations say who killed” the clashes’ seven victims.
Asked why he has focused his criticism on Hizbullah and not on Amal, Geagea said: “We disagree with Amal over the way the state is being run and the electoral law, but at least we agree with them over acknowledging Lebanon as a final homeland, contrary to Hizbullah.”
“All Lebanese are fed up with Hizbullah and its practices,” he stressed.
As for Hizbullah’s insistence on Judge Tarek Bitar’s removal, Geagea said: “I have deduced from Sayyed Nasrallah’s remarks that Hizbullah was involved in the port explosion case.”
“Sayyed Nasrallah is in a great dilemma and Hizbullah does not want any investigation into the port blast,” he added.
He also said that the Tayyouneh clashes were “unfortunate” and “should not have happened.”