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Heated court quarrel delays trial of Islamist detainees.

Summary: A heated quarrel broke out Tuesday during a trial session for Islamist detainees charged with involvement in armed clashes between supporters of fugitive preacher Sheikh Ahmad Assir and the Lebanese Army.

BEIRUT: A heated quarrel broke out Tuesday during a trial session for Islamist detainees charged with involvement in armed clashes between supporters of fugitive preacher Sheikh Ahmad Assir and the Lebanese Army.

The session was supposed to be the last, but the interrogation of a new detainee for an hour and a half prompted Brig. Khalil Ibrahim, the head of the Military Tribunal, to adjourn the session until July 30 after an argument broke out between him and lawyer Antoine Nehme, the defense attorney for a number of detainees.

Ibrahim was reading out a decision turning down a request made by lawyer Mohammad Mrad, another defense attorney, when Nehme addressed him, saying: "We urge the court to deal seriously with our demands."

Outraged by Nehme's remarks, Ibrahim slammed a table and yelled at him, saying: "Respect yourself ... you are humiliating the court and accusing it of not dealing seriously with the case!"

"You've gotten used to saying inappropriate words and we've all been putting up with it. If you don't apologize to the court immediately, I will order the military police to arrest you," he added.

Nehme apologized, saying: "I openly apologize, I was misunderstood, or rather I did not express myself well. I did not intend to humiliate the court at all."

During the session, defense attorneys were supposed to present their arguments and the court was to hand out its final verdict against more than 70 suspects, whether detained or fugitive. The suspects include Assir, his brother Amjad and singer-turned-Salafist Fadl Shaker, all fugitives.

In June 2013, Assir's gunmen attacked Army positions in the Sidon suburb of Abra, sparking clashes which left 18 Army soldiers and at least 40 Islamists dead. The Army managed to take over Assir's Bilal bin Rabah Mosque by the end of the battle.

One of those detained in relation to the clashes, Alaa Moghrabi, was arrested around a month ago, but his interrogation took a long time.

Moghrabi claimed he was one of a five-member group tasked by suspect Shahin Sleiman with monitoring members of the Hezbollah-linked Resistance Brigades and preventing them from approaching the mosque.

Moghrabi confessed that the group of Assir supporters deployed around the mosque were armed and that their aim was to confront the Resistance Brigades, denying that the Army was their enemy.

Moghrabi said that he was near the mosque when the clashes broke out, after which he hid in a nearby shop. He then returned to the mosque and stayed there until the next day, and he went home after clashes subsided.

Moghrabi denied that Assir hid at his house or that he helped him sneak to the Tawari neighborhood of the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh, where he is rumored to be staying now.

"There was no animosity between Sheikh Assir and the Army, but there was a big plot to drag us into a confrontation with the Army. What happened was an unintentional mistake."

On July 30, the defense attorneys of 10 detainees are set to speak, and the remaining will present their arguments in later sessions.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Jul 15, 2015
Words:560
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