A Lebanese military court has charged Christian politician Samir Geagea over deadly clashes in Beirut last October, local media, as well as a judicial source, said, in a move that could stoke political tension two months before parliamentary elections.
An official in Geagea’s Lebanese Forces (LF) party said the charge against him, as well as the investigation into the violence, had political motives.
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Judge Fadi Akiki told Al-Jadeed TV on Thursday that he had charged Geagea two days ago, based on “new information” relating to the Tayouneh events, a reference to Beirut’s deadliest street violence in a decade.
Seven people, all of them followers of the Iran-backed Shia Muslim group Hezbollah and its Shia ally the Amal Movement, were killed in the October 14 clashes near an old front line of the 1975-90 civil war.
Any attempt to arrest Geagea would likely be resisted by his party, creating the potential for trouble just two months before the parliamentary election, said Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center.
Geagea was summoned to a hearing at military intelligence last October over the violence, but did not attend.
The October 14 violence began as people were gathering for a protest called by Hezbollah against the judge investigating the 2020 Beirut port blast.
Hezbollah, which is heavily armed and backed by Iran, accused the LF of mounting an ambush and perpetrating the killing to try to drag the country into a civil war.
Geagea, a strong critic of Hezbollah who has good ties with Saudi Arabia, has emphatically denied this, along with Hezbollah accusations that the LF – which had a powerful militia in the civil war – had established one again.
Geagea has said the trouble began when supporters of the Shia parties entered the Christian neighbourhood of Ain al-Remmaneh where they vandalised cars, and that four residents were wounded before a shot was fired.
Together with its allies, Hezbollah won a majority in the 2018 election.