Politicians React to Verdicts in Bashir Gemayel Case amid Sassine Rally
A number of Lebanese politicians and relatives of slain president-elect Bashir Gemayel on Friday welcomed death sentences issued in absentia for the two suspects convicted of carrying out the assassination – Habib Chartouni and Nabil al-Alam.
More than three decades after Gemayel was killed in Beirut, the case still sharply divides Lebanese some of whom see him as a national hero while others say he was an Israeli agent.
“Today, we all feel that the judiciary has restored the prestige of the state and its institutions, giving hope that justice will be done to the rest of the martyrs of the cause all the way to the martyrs of the Cedar Revolution,” Gemayel's widow, ex-MP Solange Gemayel, said outside the Justice Palace after the verdicts were issued.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea meanwhile welcomed the verdict via Twitter, saying justice was fulfilled and posting a picture of the slain leader.
Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel -- Bashir's nephew – described the verdicts as the “first victory,” posting photos of both Bashir and his slain brother Pierre, who was assassinated in 2006 while serving as industry minister.
Sami Gemayel also described the verdict's day as “the day of accountability” that “fulfilled justice for entire Lebanon.”
Speaking at a rally celebrating the verdicts at Ashrafieh's Sassine Square, MP Nadim Gemayel, Bashir's son, said the Judicial Council's ruling was not issued only against Chartouni and Alam but also against “an entire apparatus that existed for 30 years and committed crimes against our martyrs.”
“Today, there are Iranian apparatuses wearing Lebanese uniforms who are carrying out Iranian schemes on our soil. Today, the verdict was issued against all of those and against anyone who might try to usurp Lebanon's sovereignty,” Gemayel added.
Justice Minister Salim Jreissati meanwhile said “there is an investigation to locate” Chartouni, who has been on the run since escaping from the Roumieh Prison in 1990.
Speaking to reporters at Sassine Square, State Minister for Planning Affairs Michel Pharaon said the death sentences are “a victory for democracy,” adding that “this day represents hope for the Lebanese.”
The Syrian Social National Party, to which Chartouni and Alam belong, meanwhile issued a statement slamming what it called an “unjust ruling.”
“It deprives citizens of their right to resist occupation and represents a stab against thousands of martyrs, victims and resistance fighters who were killed while confronting this (Israeli) occupation,” the SSNP said.
Accusing the Judicial Council of “separating the case from its historic context,” the party noted that Chartouni carried out his “act of resistance” when “Lebanon was under Israeli occupation and when Bashir Gemayel was part of this occupation, supporting it, assisting it and helping it to ensure the victory of its forces.”
Gemayel was a senior member of the Kataeb Party and the supreme commander of the Lebanese Forces militia during the early years of the civil war.
He was elected president on August 23, 1982 while the country was torn by civil war and occupied by both Israel and Syria.
Gemayel was assassinated on September 14, 1982, along with 26 others, when a bomb exploded in Kataeb's headquarters in Ashrafieh.
Chartouni, a member of the SSNP, was later arrested in connection with the assassination. His sister was a resident of the apartment above the room Bachir was in. He had visited her the previous day and planted the bomb in her apartment.
The next day, he called her and told her to get out of the building. Once she was out, he detonated the bomb from a few kilometers away from the building.
Two days later Chartouni was arrested by the Lebanese Forces. At a press conference before being handed over to the Lebanese judiciary by the LF, he called Gemayel a traitor and accused him of “selling the country to Israel.”
He said he was given the explosives and the fancy long-range electronic detonator in West Beirut’s Ras Beirut district by Nabil al-Alam, who was reportedly SSNP's intelligence chief at the time.
Alam reportedly had close ties to the Syrian intelligence services and he swiftly fled to Syria after the assassination.
Chartouni spent eight years in Roumieh Prison without an official trial until he escaped on October 13, 1990 during the Syrian offensive to oust Michel Aoun from the Baabda Palace.