Across the Bay

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Cover Up

Naharnet has the story of what appears to be a government cover up of the Hariri crime scene. A possible eyewitness was left to be buried alive in the wreckage. From Naharnet

Several civil defense activists shouted charges that the authorities had deliberately neglected appeals by Ghalayini's family and several Hariri parliament bloc members to make sure a potential witness of the assassination operation is eliminated.

"When we were allowed onto the scene at last, it took us less than five minutes to find the body," one volunteer clad in an orange uniform screamed. Others around him shouted "why hasn't the president resigned yet?"

A friend from Lebanon wrote to me with the following:

While LBC reported the story on the finding of Ghalayini's body, a Syrian citizen announced that there were three Syrian workers who went missing since the explosion. He said that the body of one of them was found on the same day of the incident. The body of another was found eight days after the incident (the body that was found under a car in the site). But the third body of a Farhan Ahmed Al Issa from Deir Al Zour in Syria was still missing.

Also PSP leader Jumblatt commented on the discovery of Ghalayini's body by telling LBC: "Minister Franjieh announced the second day that the hole (where the explosion occurred) was filled. That comes together with (other) efforts to cover evidence related to the crime. This is a scandal. The Lebanese (security) apparatus are involved. The boys worked with all ease. They put the explosives with all ease in an area that is crowded with people, in a country in which the regime resembles the Chaucesku regime. A regime filled with agents. You want to tell me they are not responsible. They are responsible..."

The opposition has demanded that "all six commanders of the nation's main security services who had been hand-picked by Lahoud be fired along with State Prosecutor Adnan Addoum, viewing them as accomplices in Hariri's murder."

"Another demand was the complete withdrawal of the Syrian army and the Syrian secret service within the context of a formal announcement by President Assad outlining a clear-cut timetable," Naharnet reported. However, despite Russian cautious calls for withdrawal, and as Bashar and his ambassadors worldwide (Mustapha in the US, Khiyami in the UK) are telling everyone they're leaving, reports from Lebanon say the army has been digging in trenches in the moutain ridge above Beirut. And although the Saudis and the Egyptians are both leaning on Bashar to set a timetable, he has so far balked.

Finally, it seems that the opposition is holding back on unleashing another popular demonstration to force Lahoud to resign, despite Jumblat's support for that idea. Michael discussed this in his DS piece (see below), but it seems the opposition was unanimous (save for Jumblat) on this issue. Like Michael, said, Lahoud is a much tougher target, backed directly by Bashar (which might explain the trenches?). So perhaps in order to avoid a severe and potentially violent backlash, they opted to go another route. For now they are demanding the removal of the intelligence officers, in the hope of clipping Lahoud's wings somewhat. They're also continuing dialogue with Hizbullah to fortify their position. But the opposition will be represented at the consultations with Lahoud to designate a new PM, however only in order to present its demands and conditions, not to suggest a candidate. If it sees that the government is not cooperating in implementing the demands, it will go back to the popular movement to achieve all its demands. Let's wait and see what happens. Very tricky stage.

Update: The Caveman in Beirut reports that US Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman has attended Ghalayini's public funeral. Rich concludes:

Consider this to be a statement of U.S. support for opposition demands regarding the security chiefs - ambassadors here tend to measure their every action against the politically charged local environment, and this is how many Lebanese would have interpreted his actions anyway.