Families of Abducted Pilgrims Suspend Actions against Turkish Interests at Charbel's Requestإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The families of the pilgrims kidnapped in Syria reportedly took the decision to suspend their actions against Turkish interests in Lebanon, said LBCI television on Wednesday.
It said that the decision was made after a delegation from the families met with Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, who requested that they suspend their escalatory measures.
Earlier on Wednesday, the families of the nine pilgrims staged a sit-in outside the headquarters of Turkish Airlines in downtown Beirut, preventing staff from entering their offices, to press for the release of their loved ones.
The relatives sealed the door of the offices on the second floor of al-Azarieh building with red wax.
The early morning rally near Mohammed al-Amin mosque came amid a heavy deployment of security forces although Charbel said the roads in the area remained open.
“We hope that Turkey would understand the position of the families and would continue to help us” in setting the nine men free, he told Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3).
In other remarks to VDL (100.5), Charbel said: “I don't blame the families on condition they don't obstruct the efforts we are exerting in the case.”
The spokesman of the protesters, Adham Zgheib, said the sit-in will be followed by a campaign to boycott Turkish products and interests.
He urged Lebanese officials to put a timeframe for their efforts to resolve the case.
Last week, the Higher Islamic Shiite Council urged the families to exercise more patience and await the results of ongoing efforts to free the hostages.
Its statement came following a meeting between the council’s vice president, Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan and Sheikh Abbas Zgheib, who was tasked by the Council to follow up the case of the nine men.
Zgheib told the National News Agency that Wednesday's sit-in came as part of the “peaceful measures that the families are undertaking against Turkish interests in Lebanon.”
On Christmas, the families briefly blocked the road to the presidential palace in Baabda. A few days earlier, they staged a sit-in near the Turkish Embassy, vowing to take escalatory measures against Turkish interests at the beginning of the new year.
Eleven Lebanese pilgrims were kidnapped in Syria's Aleppo district on May 22 as they were making their way back by land from a pilgrimage in Iran.
One was released in late August and another in September, while the rest remain in the town of Aazaz in Aleppo.
The families have accused Turkey for being complicit in the kidnapping and blamed Ankara for providing cover for the captors.
The head of the kidnapping gang said in December he will not release the men unless the Syrian government sets free two prominent opposition figures and Lebanon frees Syrian activists who are allegedly in government custody.
Amar al-Dadikhi of the North Storm brigade, also known as Abu Ibrahim, wants Tal al-Mallohi and Lt. Col. Hussein Harmoush to be released, said the New York Times.
Abu Ibrahim, who allowed the newspaper’s journalists to meet with two of the hostages, also demanded that Lebanon release anti-Assad activists it had allegedly arrested since the uprising against the Syrian president began in March 2011.
He said he did not have a count of activists in Lebanese custody, but he suggested that the number could be up to a hundred.