FOUR GENERALS' RELEASE: HIZBALLAH DEMANDS "JUDICIAL ACCOUNTABILITY"

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (www.al-akhbar.com).

Al-Akhbar Management

id: 205580
date: 5/5/2009 15:36
refid: 09BEIRUT500
origin: Embassy Beirut
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination:
header:
VZCZCXRO6639
PP RUEHAG RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHKUK RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHLB #0500/01 1251536
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 051536Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4802
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 3728
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 3919
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

----------------- header ends ----------------

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIRUT 000500

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/FO, NEA/ELA
ALSO FOR IO ACTING A/S WARLICK
P FOR DRUSSELL, RRANGASWAMY
USUN FOR WOLFF/GERMAIN/SCHEDLBAUER
NSC FOR SHAPIRO, MCDERMOTT
DOD/OSD FOR FLOURNOY/KAHL/DALTON
DRL/NESA FOR WHITMAN, BARGHOUT
OVP FOR HMUSTAFA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/03/2019
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PTER, PINR, UNSC, LE, SY
SUBJECT: LEBANON: FOUR GENERALS' RELEASE: HIZBALLAH DEMANDS
"JUDICIAL ACCOUNTABILITY"

Classified By: Ambassador Michele J. Sison for reasons 1.4
(b) and (d).

SUMMARY
-------

1. (C) In a May 1 speech following the release of the four
generals detained in connection with Rafiq Hariri's
assassination, Hizballah SYG Nasrallah implied that he would
now be wary of future STL decisions because he faults the
international court for the generals' prolonged detention.
Nasrallah also called for judicial accountability for "those
who misled" the investigation. Some opposition figures
called for the resignations of Prosecutor General Saeed Mirza
and Examining Magistrate Judge Saqr Saqr, but others, such as
Michel Aoun, have been more restrained.

2. (C) On May 5, Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar downplayed
the possibility that the opposition's criticisms of the two
Lebanese judges involved in the case could lead to
instability. He did not discount the possibility that at
least one might be forced out. Najar expected the Higher
Judicial Council to issuea statement later in the day
supporting the judiciary, and by extension, the two judges.
Najjar expressed concern about the behavior of former General
Security chief Jamil Sayyed, one of the four who were
released, and those close to him. (Note: Lebanese Forces
leader Samir Geagea voiced similar concerns -- septel. End
summary.

NASRALLAH QUESTIONS
INTEGRITY OF STL
-------------------

3. (U) In a May 1 televised speech, Hizballah SYG Hassan
Nasrallah commented on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon's
(STL) April 29 decision to release the four generals who had
been detained since 2005 in connection with former PM Rafiq
Hariri's assassination. Nasrallah implied that he could no
longer trust the STL, and suggested that the international
court could "continue to mislead." He also stated that he
would no longer "accept in advance anything issued by the
public prosecutor, the international investigation, or the
STL," as he claimed he had with the UN Investigative
Commission that preceded the STL.

4. (U) He said that Hizballah officials had remained silent
at the beginning of the generals' detention because "we did
not know what was going on...we thought it was better to wait
and see" the outcome of the investigation by the UN
investigative commission known as UNIIIC. Despite initial
calling for a Lebanese-run investigation and a Lebanese court
system to try the cases, Nasrallah argued, he and others in
his March 8 alliance had cooperated fully with the
investigation, for example, when their ministers voted in the
cabinet to extend UNIIIC's mandate. He stressed that the
March 8 and March 14 alliances never disagreed on "uncovering
the truth and punishing the culprits."

5. (U) Nasrallah singled out the moment when former Syrian
intelligence officer Mohammed Zohair Siddiq, who at one point
asserted Syrian high-level involvement in the assassination,
recanted his statements, as the pivotal moment when "the
whole investigation process collapsed." In the end,
Nasrallah asserted, the STL was "guilty" because it was
complicit in what he deemed the politically-motivated
continued detention of the four generals.

CALLS FOR JUDICIAL ACCOUNTABILITY
---------------------------------

6. (C) Nasrallah also demanded to "hold responsible those who
misled" the investigation. He requested that the Lebanese
judiciary "summon, arrest, interrogate, and punish false
witnesses," naming Siddiq in particular and everyone who
covered for him, in order to make an example and prevent

BEIRUT 00000500 002 OF 003

further "false witnesses." The Lebanese judiciary and
security services should investigate the assassinations with
a fresh start, he proposed, and consider the possibility the
Israeli government was responsible. He called for calm and
Lebanese unity.

7. (C) While Nasrallah was not particularly critical of the
Lebanese judiciary, other opposition officials were more
pointed in their criticisms. Hizballah Deputy Chief Naim
Qassem and other opposition figures pinned the "blame" for
the imprisonment of the generals on Prosecutor General Saeed
Mirza and Examining Magistrate Judge Saqr Saqr, accusing them
of misleading the investigation and some called for their
resignations.

8. (C) The release of the generals was the main topic at the
April 30 cabinet meeting. The cabinet agreed to defer to the
Higher Judicial Council (HJC) to address the issue of the
judges' actions. That meeting is scheduled for the afternoon
of May 5.

JUSTICE MINISTER: OPPOSITION WANTS
CALM, BUT SAYYED IS UNPREDICTABLE
-----------------------------------

9. (C) Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar reviewed these events
in a May 5 meeting with DCM and Poloff. He said he had been
nervous immediately after the four generals' release about
how the political opposition would play it, but now believed
that the opposition wants the situation to be calm prior to
the June 7 parliamentary elections. He also assessed that
the reactions by Nasrallah and Christian opposition leader
Michel Aoun indicated that this was the case. He was
concerned, though, by the behavior of former General Security
chief Jamil Sayyed, one of those released, who has been
working with two "puppets of Syria" as he called them, former
minister and MP Michel Samaha, and former MP Nasser Qandil.
He said he expected those close to Sayyed to continue their
attacks against Mirza and Saqr. Mirza is away at a spa in
the Czech Republic this week, he noted.

10. (C) Najjar said that at its meeting later that day, the
HJC would issue a statement supporting the judiciary and that
he was anxious to see the reactions to the statement. He
said that the criticisms from the opposition were focused on
the two judges, Mirza and Saqr, rather than the judiciary
itself. He emphasized that PM Fouad Siniora and Speaker
Nabih Berri (who not on good terms with Sayyed, Najjar said)
would strongly support the judges.

11. (C) Najjar thought it was possible that that Saqr might
eventually be forced out, stressing that this would not
happen immediately. Only the cabinet can fire the judges,
and that will not occur because the majority will not permit
it, he noted. But he did not discount the possibility of
Saqr resigning under pressure.

JUDGE FRANSEN IS "ON ANOTHER PLANET"
------------------------------------

12. (C) Najjar made unprompted complaints about Tribunal
Prosecutor Bellemare, saying he acted without sensitivity for
the Lebanese environment, and pre-trial Judge Daniel Fransen,
whom he said was "too young and on another planet." Pressed
on the reasons for his criticism, since Bellemare's and
Fransen's actions to release the generals were not a
surprise, Najjar was critical of the quality of Fransen's
written decision and said he believed Bellemare and others at
the STL "fear Hizballah." For his part, Najjar said he is
working on a draft law to amend the criminal procedure law to
set a time limit, such as six months, for the detention of
suspects.

COMMENT
-------

BEIRUT 00000500 003 OF 003

13. (C) We will continue to monitor the reaction to the
generals' release. Saad Hariri was upbeat in a May 4
conversation with Ambassador, and felt that Sayyed's comments
to the media were working to turn public sympathy away from
the four generals. March 14 leader Samir Geagea told
Ambassador on May 5 that he was not concerned about serious
political reaction (septel). Aoun, in his May 4 statement,
said he had decided to withdraw his support for the Tribunal,
but also said he and his opposition colleagues do not want
any "security breach" that would disrupt the elections.

14. (C) The animosity between Amal leader Nabih Berri and
released General Jamil Sayyed is also being widely discussed.
Although parliamentary candidate lists are now closed, there
is talk that Hizballah might wait until after the June
elections to get one of their winning candidates to resign
and move to a by-election (perhaps in Baalbek-Hermel) to
elect Sayyed. Amal MP Yacin Jaber noted the rumor to
Ambassador in a May 4 conversation, noting that "everyone"
was talking about Sayyed ultimately aiming for Berri's role
as Speaker. End Comment.

SISON

^ Back to Top