The Hizballah gunman accused of murdering Army helicopter pilot, Lt. Samer Hanna, has been released on bail by the military court investigating the incident. In a country where those who attack the country's security services and institutions have, more often than not, escaped across the Syrian border to find refuge, this development is worrying, to say the least. Reaction from the country's pro-sovereignty cadres has started to come in:
“Releasing the man who killed Lebanese army pilot Samer Hanna comes as the biggest possible insult to Lebanese Armed Forces,” National Bloc leader Carlos Eddé stated on Wednesday.More commentary on the killer's release from Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar, MP Atef Majdalani, the March 14 Secretariat, and former President Amine Gemayel, via NOWLebanon:
Eddé said that the killer belongs to “a known militant group,” a reference to Hezbollah, which ordered its members to confront any intervention regardless of affiliation. He added that Hezbollah gave out instructions to prevent the Lebanese army or security forces from entering the areas under its control.
“What is noteworthy is that the release of the man came a week after the 2009 parliamentary elections, in order to avoid affecting the opposition’s election results,” he said.
Eddé said, “Hezbollah has the authority to kill, and does not abide by the law, and thus is becoming similar to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.”
MP Boutros Harb called the release of the man arrested for the death of Lebanese army pilot Samer Hanna “a scandal and an unacceptable act,” An-Nahar reported on Wednesday.
The man was accused of accidently killing Hanna on August 28, 2008 in the South while he was flying his helicopter.
Harb expressed shock over the way the case was dealt with, especially because the detained man was released before the sentence was issued.
“I will follow up on the case, and the reason behind the court’s decision to release the accused, who confessed to opening fire on Officer Hanna,” he affirmed.
The daily cited an official source, saying that the military court released the accused man, Mustapha Hassan Moukaddem, with a 10 million LL ($6,666) bail.
Government Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr refused to release Moukaddem, but the court’s decision did not change.
After outcry over the release of a Hezbollah member who confessed shooting First Lieutenant Samer Hanna’s helicopter in August 2008 and killing him, Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar said that investigations “did not end yet, and the Military Court will follow up on this case.”
In an interview with Future News on Wednesday, Najjar said, “The decision to release the killer was issued by the Military Court, and this case raises questions about the ability to safeguard Lebanese Armed Forces officers,” although he questioned the Military Court’s efficacy.
Future Movement MP Atef Majdalani said on Wednesday that the release of Lebanese army pilot Samer Hanna’s murderer is “a scandal,” adding that the verdict of the military court is “unacceptable,” especially since Hanna was performing his duty in Lebanese airspace and over Lebanese territory.
The March 14 General Secretariat issued a statement on Wednesday saying that the military court’s verdict to release Mustapha Hassan Moukaddem, who is accused of killing Lebanese army pilot Samer Hanna, is “surprising.”
Hanna was killed when Moukaddem, a Hezbollah gunman, opened fire on his helicopter on August 28, 2008. The helicopter was flying over the village of Tilal Soujoud in southern Lebanon. The statement read that March 14 had decided to leave the case to the Lebanese judicial system and hoped that the judiciary would remain impartial.
“Today is the second commemoration of the assassination of MP Walid Eido, who died for Lebanon and its independence. March 14 promises all the Lebanese to remain steadfast in pursuing the noble goals of the Cedar Revolution,” the statement read.
Gemayel also asked how the release of the killer of Lebanese army pilot Samer Hanna can be justified to the parents of the deceased.
The Kataeb leader said that the military court released the perpetrator upon the direct recommendation of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) or based upon a report from them, as procedures require. He said that “the recommendation” was based on the belief that Hezbollah’s presence in Jezzine and the shooting down of a military helicopter are “normal and right.”
“Let us look at a map of Lebanon one last time and understand where the Lebanese can roam freely under the protection of the state and where they cannot,” Gemayel told reporters.
He added that he does not want confront any judicial authority, military or otherwise and asked, “Is it possible for Hezbollah to have a power greater than the power of the army, the judicial system, the parliament, the cabinet and the president combined? We want to know who controls the sovereignty of Lebanon and [who rules] its people.”