Alerts, News and Background from Lebanon
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Edited by Inga Schei and Lokman Slim
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January 25, 2013

A recent photo of Sheikh H. Mchaymech
taken in his prison cell.
The most recent hearing in the continuing legal drama of Sheikh Hassan Mchaymech, Lebanon’s “Prisoner of Conscience,” was held January 18,2013. During the proceedings, the prosecution presented new evidence—more phone records—to the court. Then, to allow Sheikh Mchaymech’s lawyer Antoine Nehmeh sufficient time to review the documents, the court scheduled the next hearing for March 20, 2013. This ninth postponement marked the passage of an entire year since the trial began, a full year during which no significant progress has been made towards determining a ruling in the case.

Last September 20, the prosecution entered into evidence usage records from Sheikh Mchaymech’s telephone. During the January 18 session of the trial, however, the prosecuting attorney offered no explanation for the four-month delay between submissions of the telephone records. Interestingly, the phone records presented in September 2012 represented the first materials the prosecution submitted to the Military Court since making its initial call for evidence during the Sheikh’s first hearing on January 26, 2012—nine months prior.

Notably, Sheikh Mchaymech reiterated his request that the court call Sheikh Ali Damoush as a witness. The Sheikh also criticized the court for having called “fictitious witnesses,” including his son Reda Mchaymech and brother Abed el-Karim Mchaymech, rather than producing witnesses able to provide useful testimony regarding the accusations against him. In response, Judge Khalil Ibrahim chided Sheikh Mchaymech directly when the judge stated that he was unconcerned with Sheikh Damoush and would only summon witnesses present in the court and who had been properly called by the prosecution.

L'Orient-Le Jour, January 17, 2013
Also on January 18, 2013, the Lebanese daily al-Balad printed an open letter to Lebanese President Michel Suleiman from Sheikh Mchaymech. In that letter, the Sheikh described some of the experiences he was forced to endure by the Syrian regime owing to his objections to Hezbollah’s ideology. Sheikh Mchaymech also accused the “the President of the Primary Court, its predecessors and successors, of being under the influence of Hezbollah’s security.” He cited the case of Brigadier General Fayaz Karam, a retired military leader affiliated with General M. Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement. In contrast to the Sheikh’s proceedings, events in the trial of Brigadier General Karam moved quickly despite substantial evidence against him. The Sheikh noted that the process did not infringe upon the general’s civil liberties because
al-Balad, January 18, 2013
he was “loyal and allied with Hezbollah.” Sheikh Mchaymech added that the president of his court “clearly violates the laws of the Lebanese state in favor of the wishes and orders of the security apparatus of this party.”

Finally, the Sheikh entreated President Suleiman to support the laws entrusted to him through the office he holds and ensure the state’s laws are applied properly in pursuing the course of justice. This last hearing garnered press coverage in an-Nahar, al-Joumhouria, al-Mustaqbal, and al-Liwaa. As well, a detailed article in which Michel Hajji Georgiou described the Sheikh’s journey from Syria to the Lebanese Military Court appeared in the January 17 issue of L'Orient-Le Jour.

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