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Beirut, Lebanon – Lebanon’s Military Tribunal has sentenced famed Lebanese singer-turned radical Fadel Shaker to 22 years in prison for providing financial and logistical support to a “terrorist” group led by hardline Muslim leader Ahmed al-Assir.
Shaker’s sentence, handed down in absentia on Wednesday, includes 15 years’ prison with hard labour for “involvement in terrorist acts committed by terrorists, with his knowledge of the matter by providing logistical services to them,” Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported.
The court also handed down an additional seven years’ prison for Shaker’s financing of al-Assir’s ragtag armed group. Shaker had paid for weapons and ammunition for the group.
The sentence is tied to Shaker’s participation in 2013 clashes against the Lebanese Army in the Abra suburb of the southern port city of Sidon, for which he has already been sentenced to 15 years’ prison with hard labour.
Shaker was best known for songs about love and loss that made him a star across the Middle East – until he renounced his former career as sinful in 2012, grew a scruffy beard and joined al-Assir’s group.
Al-Assir rose in prominence as the response to an uprising in neighbouring Syria grew increasingly violent, largely for his virulent criticism of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah which supported the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Shaker traded his songs for religious hymns, performing them at rallies in support of al-Assir.
In 2013, al-Assir commanded fighters against the Lebanese Army in two-day clashes that left dozens dead, including some 17 Lebanese soldiers.
Shaker, in a viral video at the time, said “We sent home two corpses for you yesterday,” a claim some have interpreted as an admission that he, himself, killed two Lebanese soldiers.
He has been on the run since, living in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Sidon, where he was raised by a Lebanese mother and Palestinian father.
Lebanese security forces do not enter the camp by custom, making Shaker’s arrest unlikely.