UNIFIL Turns Over Lebanese Staffer Accused as 'Israeli Spy'
The United Nations peacekeeping force in south Lebanon UNIFIL said Wednesday it has turned over a longtime local staffer to Lebanese authorities who accuse him of spying for Israel.
The Lebanese man who had worked in the UNIFIL administration for over 20 years is among three people accused by authorities of spying for Israel.
On Sunday, Lebanese authorities said they had arrested the three suspects, a Syrian man and his Lebanese wife and a Lebanese man.
But the Lebanese man "was in the UNIFIL compound when authorities requested him," UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti told AFP.
"We asked U.N. headquarters in New York to determine whether immunity would be applied in his case, and the U.N. determined that since the allegations were not related to his official functions, immunity from legal proceedings would not apply," he added.
The man was taken into custody on Wednesday.
In an official statement, UNIFIL said Wednesday that it “will continue to provide the assistance required to facilitate the Government's investigations into the allegations.”
“UNIFIL considers it of the utmost importance that the investigative and judicial process is conducted in accordance with the international standards of justice, fairness and due process of law and fully supports the Lebanese authorities in the effort,” it said.
“To this end, UNIFIL will continue to act in full transparency, in coordination with the Lebanese authorities, and in accordance with the long-established procedures and agreements,” it added.
On Sunday, Lebanon's General Security service announced it had arrested a "spy network."
It accused the three suspects of gathering information on individuals and security and military targets.
It said the three also allegedly filmed "sensitive" roads and other areas in south Lebanon "and sent the footage to their employers to be used in later attacks."
Lebanon and Israel remain technically in a state of war, with occasional skirmishes on the ceasefire line.
UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, monitors the line and has a force of some 10,000 international peacekeepers.
It also employs numerous local staff members serving in non-peacekeeping roles.
In 2006, Hizbullah fought a month-long war with Israel that devastated parts of Lebanon.
That conflict killed more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and some 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers.
Last December, Hizbullah detained a senior party official on allegations of spying for Israel and "sabotaging security operations" abroad.
Between April 2009 and 2014, Lebanese authorities detained more than 100 people accused of spying for Israel, most of them army members or telecommunications employees.
But such arrests have since been rare.