BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Judicial Council sentenced to death on Friday Habib Shartouni and Nabil El-Alam, bringing about a long overdue sense of justice for the Gemayel family.
Speaking outside the Judicial Council in Adlieh, Bashir Gemayel's widow, Solange Gemayel, expressed her gratitude and renewed sense of hope in the country's Judiciary, saying "this sentence was handed down on behalf of the Lebanese people; we have been working for 35 years to bring about justice for Bashir and his comrades."
The verdict comes 35 years after Shartouni assassinated Bashir Gemayel on September 14, 1982; nine days before he was to be sworn in as Lebanon’s 7th president.
The Judicial Council opened the trial in the assassination case back in November 2016, with Judge Jean Fahed calling on Shartouni to turn himself in, in a far-fetched attempt to avoid a trial in absentia. The Judge also requested a document proving the death of El-Alam, Shartouni’s main accomplice, believed to have died in 2014 in Syria.
Gemayel was killed along with 32 others when a blast ravaged through the Kataeb headquarters in Ashrafieh, decimating the better part of the building.
Shartouni had planted over 43 kilograms of explosives, provided to him by El-Alam, one floor above the room where Gemayel and his party members used to hold meetings. After establishing that Gemayel had entered the premises, Shartouni brazenly walked out of the building toward a safe spot in close proximity before detonating the load.
Shartouni, who was 26 years of age at the time of the assassination, was arrested by the Lebanese Forces after the murder and handed over to authorities.
During a press conference at the time of his arrest, Shartouni confessed to the crime, expressing no remorse while calling Gemayel a traitor for aligning with the Israelis. He also divulged information pertaining to El-Alam, confirming that the latter provided him with the explosives and detonator used in the assassination.
Shartouni was born on April 24 1958, to a Christian Maronite family in Aley Mount Lebanon. During the early 1970’s he became enchanted with the ideas of the Syrian Socialist National Party (SSNP) after attending several political rallies, officially joining their ranks in 1977.
Prior to that, he was attending university in Paris where he met El-Alam, a high ranking member within the SSNP, who convinced him of the necessity to eliminate Gemayel.
As Shartouni was living with his sister and grandparents on the third floor of the Kataeb building which served as the party’s headquarters, he had unrivaled access to Gemayel and was thus tasked with conducting the operation.
He was indicted by the Judiciary on December 28, 1982, and spent eight years in Roumieh prison without trial, until he escaped under bizarre circumstances in 1990 when Syrian troops forced then-Prime Minister Michel Aoun out of Baadba palace and into exile. His whereabouts remain unknown, with speculations indicating that he fled to Syria, as Alam did before him.
Speaking to Annahar on Thursday, Justice Minister Salim Jereissati asserted that once the verdict is handed down, its ruling would be final and there would be no room for appeal, while also saying that he would call upon the journalists who had recently interviewed Shartouni for questioning.
The interview was published by Al Akhbar newspaper. It is not clear however if the interview was conducted in person.
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