Attorney says press IDs found in cars used by Army for Arsal raid

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Lebanese soldiers on armored vehicles stand at a checkpoint in Arsal, Monday, Feb. 4, 2013. (The Daily Star/Nidal Solh)

BEIRUT: An attorney representing the family of a fugitive killed in a raid in Arsal gave the judiciary what he claimed were press cards found in two vehicles used by the Army during the operation, judicial sources said Monday.

The sources told The Daily Star that lawyer Tareq Shandab provided Military Investigative Judge Fadi Sawwan identification cards and press credentials he said belonged to photographers and journalists that were found in the two civilian vehicles – a Honda and a white van – used by the Army to carry out raids in Arsal in February.

On Feb. 1, two soldiers were killed in an ambush set up by gunmen in Arsal after a military intelligence patrol detained Khaled Hmayyed, a resident of the town wanted on terrorist charges. Hmayyed later died during the clashes.

According to the sources, Shandab – the lawyer of the family of Hmayyed – argued that the press cards may have been used by the military intelligence as cover to enter the town or that journalists might have accompanied the Army during the raid.

The bloody incident raised tensions in the Baalbek area town as residents and gunmen involved in the attack claimed the soldiers had approached in civilian vehicles. The Lebanese Army maintains that a military vehicle accompanied the soldiers.

Thirty-four people have been charged over the incident.

Arsal Mayor Ali Hujeiri failed for the second time to show up Monday before Sawwan as a witness in the case.

Shandab, who is also Hujeiri’s lawyer, appeared in court on behalf of his client and requested that the judge remove the mayor’s name from a list of wanted individuals that the Army has circulated.

Video footage of the aftermath of the incident allegedly shows the soldiers wounded and killed in the incident being transferred by gunmen to the municipality building of Arsal.

Shandab also requested to listen to the testimony of the head of the Army patrol that arrested Hmayyed in order to reveal the circumstances behind his killing.

He also requested that a medical committee be set up to re-examine the bodies of the soldiers to determine the cause of death.

The Daily Star - Lebanon