No Praise for Lebanon Judge Who Released Qazzi

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How can a hand not be ashamed, not tremble, when it signs a decision to release an agent like Qazzi. This is abhorrent. It is shameful. (Photo: Haytham al-Moussawi)

By: Mohamed Nazzal

Published Monday, December 17, 2012

When a fellow military judge heard about Judge Alice Shebtiny’s decision to release Charbel Qazzi, his reaction was: “Shame on her!” Qazzi had been charged with collaboration with Israel in 2010. The former telecommunications engineer was accused of providing information to Israel during the July 2006 war.

The military judge, whose office is a few doors down from Shebtiny’s, said her ruling was “a mark of shame in the history of the Lebanese judiciary.” He had no qualms expressing his views publicly, but asked the permission of the president of the Judicial Inspection Authority, Judge Akram Baasiri, to allow him, just this once, to express his opinion in a case that has “hurt me personally.” He does not want to be found “in breach of due discretion.”

He is not the only judge to believe Shebtiny’s ruling was wrong. There is a significant number of judges who want to publicly state their disapproval. If Judge Shebtiny did the rounds today, she would find more than one of her colleagues saying to her: “Yes, by law, as the head of a court, you do have the right to consider matters, but is it possible that you have never heard of one of the most important legal principles: the higher interests of the state?”

This military judge wonders whether his colleague is proficient in classical Arabic as she’s a well-known francophone, he explained.

“It is called the raison d’État, or national interest. In Lebanon, the principle of the higher interests of the state cannot be clearer than when it comes to the issue of enmity with Israel. The judge knows French law, and it is likely that she is aware of this principle. Unfortunately, it seems that she belongs to the culture of non-enmity towards Israel. This is the crux of the matter.”

The judge is now speaking loudly, on the verge of exploding. “How can a hand not be ashamed, not tremble, when it signs a decision to release an agent like Qazzi. This is abhorrent. It is shameful.”

Another high-ranking judge in the appeal court could only describe Shebtiny’s decision as “absurd.” He refuses to get personal about his colleague, but “one can only look at her decision and denounce it.”

In the judicial journal that is distributed at the beginning of every year, you find the judge’s name written in a strange way, unlike her colleagues. It says: Alice Shebtiny-Al-Am. Her husband comes from the al-Am family. She is from Tripoli, but her husband is from Jbeil, the same area as President Michel Suleiman. Shebtiny is a personal friend of the first lady.

One of her colleagues, who has known her for many years, remarks: “She is not known for being involved in politics, not even as having clear political leanings. However, her family used to belong to the National Bloc under Raymond Eddé.”

It is justified to look at the judge’s personal life here because some believe that she now “specializes in releasing enemy agents. Qazzi is not the first.

A year ago, almost to the day, Shebtiny released four people convicted of being agents for Israel and sentenced to between 10 and 15 years in prison. She released them when they had only served two years and 10 days. At the time, the decision passed without the objection of the public prosecutor, but Judge Said Mirza did not like it.

He told Al-Akhbar a few days later: “I am shocked by the judge’s decision. We have to do battle to apprehend even one enemy agent, not in order for him to be released later, but for justice to take its course and for him to be punished.”

Minister of Justice Shakib Qortbawi did not want to comment on her latest decision. He said, “I am a minister and I do not have the right to interfere in the affairs of the courts.”

The attorney general at the appeals court, Judge Hatem Madi, also declined to comment, but he told Al-Akhbar that the representative of the public prosecutor at the military court objected to the decision. However, according to the law, the representative’s opinion here “is no more than a position, be it consultative, so the decision remains in the hands of the judge and the four officers who assist her.”

This is something that has not been widely discussed. Judge Shebtiny did not make the decision to release Qazzi alone. She had with her four army officers. If three of them had rejected the ruling, it would not have gone through. According to military law, such decisions can only pass by a majority.

A military judge points out that before discussing the release of Qazzi “we must ask why the permanent military court gave him a reduced sentence of seven years in prison in the first place. How can a person who handed over our country to the Israeli enemy, by handing over communications, receive such a light sentence? What this enemy agent has done is worse and more dangerous than just being a ‘comprehensive risk.’”

The military court had also sentenced the enemy agent, Fayez Karam, to only two years in prison. Later, Karam received a reduced sentence by way of a law meant to apply to ordinary prisoners to relieve overcrowded prisons. This begs the question: Why were enemy agents not excluded from the reduced prison year? A member of parliament who worked on this law has only this to say: “Unfortunately, it was an inadvertent error.” And thus we again find ourselves in the land of errors.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Justiceman has already decided 'guilt' and punishment. No need for an investigation.

Justiceman when you are accused of a crime it would be vigilante justice if you get locked up with no trial. True justice does not pre-suppose your guilt.

This is why judges are necessary, so that accusations are not enough to deprive people of their life or liberty.

hey harley, just FYI i think you missed this part of his comment: "She should be investigated, tried"

Is she an Zionist agent?
She should be investigated, tried and thrown in jail for treason.

here goes alice shebtini again... a year ago she released convicted spy recidivists under the pretext that they were "sick"

shame on her indeed

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