General amnesty law put on the back burner

The detained or accused are charged with a variety of offenses, ranging from drug to terrorism offenses.
by Georgi Azar

30 March 2018 | 19:44

Source: by Annahar

  • by Georgi Azar
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 30 March 2018 | 19:44

Families of Islamist prisoners in Lebanon carry a portrait of hardline Sunni cleric Ahmad al-Assir, who is in jail, during a protest demanding that Islamist prisoners be part of a discussed general amnesty, in front the government palace in central Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

BEIRUT: Despite Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk’s assurances earlier this month that the general amnesty draft law would be “adopted very shortly,” sources told Annahar that it would be put on hold until after the May 6 parliamentary elections, with continued rallies across Tripoli, Sidon, and Baalbeck expected to take place.

The debate surrounding a general amnesty law has gained traction in recent months, as family members and relatives of those behind bars or on the run have been staging rallies across the country demanding that the detainees be pardoned.

Those include individuals accused or sentenced on a variety of offenses, ranging from drug to terrorism-related crimes.

Although talks between the Association of Muslim Scholars – representing the family members of detained Islamists – and Prime Minister Saad Hariri have intensified in recent days, it now seems that the general amnesty bill will put on the backburner amid a lack of political consensus over the issue.

The controversial bill has pitted rival political faction against each other with each bloc tentatively in favor of one aspect of the general amnesty, which can only be described as a threefold conundrum.

The general amnesty would give a blank slate to those sentenced or accused of a wide array of terrorism and drug-related charges, as well as those who collaborated with Israeli forces during their occupation of southern Lebanon till 2000 before fleeing to Israel with the withdrawing troops.

President Michel Aoun is reportedly opposed to any amnesty for individuals with blood on their hands, in reference to those who clashed with the Lebanese Army both in both Tripoli, and Sidon during radical Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir’s three-day battle with the army.

The families of Islamist prisoners have been the most vocal in their pursuit of a pardon for their relatives, holding rallies in Tripoli and Sidon demanding that everyone be included in the general amnesty.

Pictures showing the families Islamists during a demonstration staged in Tripoli on March 30, 2018 (Annahar Photo)

Yet, according to a source familiar with the negotiation process, individuals who directly clashed with members of Lebanon’s security institutions would be excluded from the mass pardon bill.

Some parties have also vetoed the release of those incarcerated or wanted as a result of their drug and theft-related activities, mostly individuals hailing from the Bekaa region. Others have opposed granting amnesty to those who sided with Israeli forces during their occupation of Lebanon.

In an attempt to pile pressure on political leaders, the family members of those wanted and incarcerated for drug and theft-related charges are now expected to follow suit, staging sizable demonstrations within the Baalbek-Hermel district in the coming days, a source told Annahar.

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