by Naharnet Newsdesk
The Judicial Council, Lebanon's highest court for state
security crimes, on Friday held its second in absentia trial session in
the case of the 1982 assassination of president-elect Bashir Gemayel. After having issued an ultimatum asking the accused
Habib Chartouni to turn himself in within 24 hours at the latest from
Friday's session, the court decided to consider Chartouni a fugitive and
to try him in absentia. It also decided to launch in absentia proceedings
against the other suspect in the case, Nabil al-Alam, seeing as no death
certificate has been issued for him by the Directorate General of
Media reports had said that al-Alam had died of illness in 2014. According to al-Jadeed TV, the Judicial Council has
given al-Alam an ultimatum to turn himself in within 24 hours at the
latest from the next session, which will be held on April 28. State-run National News Agency, said the court also
decided to strip Chartouni of all his civil rights and to seize any
assets he has in Lebanon. Protesters from a Syrian Social National Party faction
calling itself the July 8 Movement meanwhile staged a protest near the
Justice Palace in support of Chartouni.
Demonstrators carried banners and pictures and called on the Lebanese state to consider Chartouni “a hero not a criminal.” Security forces took measures to prevent the demo from
approaching the Justice Palace before eventually asking the protesters
to leave the area. Gemayel was a senior member of the Kataeb Party and the
supreme commander of the Lebanese Forces militia during the early years
of the civil war.
He was elected president on August 23, 1982 while the country was torn by civil war and occupied by both Israel and Syria. Gemayel was assassinated on September 14, 1982, along
with 26 others, when a bomb exploded in Kataeb's headquarters in
Ashrafieh. Chartouni, a member of the Syrian Social National Party,
was later arrested in connection with the assassination. His sister was
a resident of the apartment above the room Bachir was in. He had
visited her the previous day and planted the bomb in her apartment.
The next day, he called her and told her to get out of
the building. Once she was out, he detonated the bomb from a few
kilometers away from the building. Two days later Chartouni was arrested by the Lebanese
Forces. At a press conference before being handed over to the Lebanese
judiciary by the LF, he called Gemayel a traitor and accused him of
“selling the country to Israel.”
He said he was given the explosives and the fancy
long-range electronic detonator in West Beirut’s Ras Beirut district by
Nabil al-Alam, who was reportedly SSNP's intelligence chief at the time.
Alam reportedly had close ties to the Syrian intelligence services and he swiftly fled to Syria after the assassination.
Chartouni spent eight years in Roumieh Prison without an
official trial until he escaped on October 13, 1990 during the Syrian
offensive to oust Michel Aoun from the Baabda Palace.