Lebanese again delay verdict in Cdn spy case
Canadian Press 31/8/03
OTTAWA The verdict has again been delayed in the case of a Canadian missionary standing trial for allegedly collaborating with Israel, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Saturday.
The verdict in the Bruce Balfour case, which had been postponed last week to Monday, has been further delayed to allow time for lawyers to make closing arguments, said Patrick Riel, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs.
Those final remarks are expected on Monday, which is Labour Day in Canada, but a new date hasn't yet been set for the verdict in the case, said Riel.
"We're not expecting any decision on Monday," he said.
Court officials in Beirut had earlier asked for more time to summon witnesses and study new documents in the case.
Collaborating with Israel is punishable by up to 15 years in jail in a country technically at war with Israel. Lebanese authorities bar any traveller carrying a passport with an Israeli stamp. It is rare, however, for such travellers to be arrested.
Last week, Balfour, a 52-year-old Christian missionary from Calgary, reiterated his plea of not guilty.
"I did not spy for anyone and I do not spy for anyone. I serve only the word of God and Jesus Christ," he was quoted as telling the five-man military tribunal.
His lawyer, Ibrahim Hariri, argued that Balfour visited Israel on a religious mission.
Balfour was arrested on July 10 at Beirut airport on a military court order accusing him of visiting Israel and collaborating with the enemy.
Balfour is believed to have been in the Middle East directing an evangelical project to help replant the biblical cedar forests in northern Lebanon.
Lebanese Prosecutor General Adnan Addoum said last month that he received information that Balfour had travelled between Lebanon and Israel in a way that aroused suspicions and that a warrant was issued on April 2 for his arrest.
He was arrested upon his return to Lebanon in July.