Excerpts from Bruce Balfour's third court appearance
(Translated by The Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation Media Committee from the Arabic court script that was published by Assafir newspaper on August 28, 2003)
Canadian humanitarian Bruce Balfour's third court hearing on Wednesday, August 27, 2003 in Beirut, Lebanon focused on his Christian faith and on his stance and views on Islam. This diversion in the hearing from the main espionage charges for which he has been detained in Roumieh Prison since July 10th was triggered, according to the prosecutor, by several documents that were found in Balfour's suitcases when the prosecution took possession of them from British Airways early this week.
Through the type and content of the questions the Lebanese military tribunal bombarded Balfour with during his third hearing his prosecutor endeavored to make him appear as if he were an opponent of Islam who is trying to work against that religion.
However, Balfour's answers to the loaded questions he was asked did not give the court the legal ammunition it was attempting to get him to produce. Balfour did not fall into the trap the court had apparently resorted to setting for him after it found there were no legitimate grounds to try him on fabricated espionage charges.
The only question related to espionage that was asked during the hearing was: "Have you ever spied for Israeli interests"? Balfour denied that he had and said: " I do not spy for any body's interest, I did not spy for any body's interest; no. I serve the risen Savior and Him alone."
In response to a question addressing the time when South Lebanon was liberated, Balfour requested a clarification about the concept of liberation. The judge specified it as the withdrawal of the Israelis from South Lebanon in the year 2000. The judge asked Balfour if what Lebanon considers liberation he considers occupation? Balfour replied by saying: " I have no opinion on this matter, I don't live here".
The Military tribunal court was presided over by Brigadier Maher Safieddine (Arabic for sword of religion). Members of the tribunal were Judge Nassieb Elia, a civil consulate and and the prosecutor, Judge Sami Sodki.
Bruce Balfour was brought to the court room guarded, but without handcuffs. With him were his two lawyers, Ibrahim Al Hariri and George Essaf. The Canadian consul in Beirut and the Canadian embassy's lawyer, Fawzi Al Matni were present with other employees from the Canadian embassy who taped the session verbatim. In addition, some of Balfour's friends were in the courtroom.
The prosecution's witness Saeed Azzouri did not appear because of a urinary tract surgery performed on him at the Hotel Deo hospital. His lawyer Zahier Azzouri attended and presented a medical report to the court stating the witness's excuse for not being able to attend.
Brigadier Safieddine announced that he had received two suitcases from the police belonging to Balfour on the request of the government's designated representative, Judge Maroun Zakour. The suitcases contained documents, religious books and brochures. Some of them were written by Balfour himself (in his own handwriting).
Balfour was asked if the suitcases belonged to him. He said, "Yes, they are mine," and stated that he does not know why their arrival was delayed, "may be this has to do with the British Airways plane that I flew on to Beirut Airport on 10/7/03, "I brought them with me (ie., the suitcases), but they had not reached the airport on my arrival."
Balfour was told by the court that one of the documents found in his suitcases contained statements saying : "The devil will build a fort on earth and will strengthen his evil kingdom, and Islam is the devil's world." Many questions the judge asked revolved around Balfour's religious beliefs.
Balfour stated that the Old Testament does not mention Islam and that "God's word starts with Jesus and does not end. It will be for all the people when Jesus comes again. When the second Judgment Day takes place Jesus' word will be seen on high and people will know about it. Jesus lived for 33 years then he was crucified; Islam came after him by approximately 600 years."
Question: "Why does it say in one of the statements you wrote (in your own handwriting) that Islam is the 'devil's earth'?"
Balfour's answer "I did not say that. The earth is God's and the devil tries to take it from him."
Question: "Do you view Islam and the devil as two names for one person?"
Balfour's answer: "Definitely not; the devil is effective among Christians too."
Question: "Why did you name the Islamic world as the devil's?"
Balfour's answer: I teach the entire Holy Book; this is a small part of my study that I prepared few months ago and it is not complete yet."
Balfour denied that he had used this same study to convince Engineer Fadi Al Hussaini, a Lebanese employee of the Agricultural ministry, to convert from Islam during his tour with him in the Jazzine area when Al Hussaini was showing Balfour places that could be suitable for planting cedar tree seedlings.
Question (Judge Sodki): "Do you believe in Jesus' apostles and do you consider His disciples spies?"
Balfour's answer: "I believe in Jesus, but do not believe that of His followers who were His disciples."
Question (Brigadier Safieddine): "Is (English) Lord Balfour, the mastermind of dividing Palestine and giving it to the Israelis, one of your grandfathers?"
Balfour's answer: "This is a distant possibility ( probability); I was born in a small family far from the British Aristocracy."
Question: "Did the Jesus mentioned in the Holy Book come (to earth), or not yet?"
Balfour's answer: "He came, died and was resurrected. I believe that God's word is present in the Holy Book. I believe in everything written and presented in the verses of Genesis to Revelation in the book; that is to say, all 66 books (of the Holy Bible)."
Question: "If you believe in His books, why then don't you believe in His apostles?"
Balfour's answer: "I believe in what came (to be written down) in the Holy Book."
Question: "What is the name of the God that you believe in?"
Balfour's answer:? "Jesus."
Concerning the time he has spent in the Middle East Balfour said: " I visited Lebanon for the first time in the early eighties, and my last visit was in January 2001. I visited Saeed Azzouri in his home in Jazzine. My friend Grant Livingstone gave him a gift, a book written by a Canadian; I believe he is the pastor that Grant is affiliated with, religious-wise. No one was with me during that visit except Grant."
Question: "In your personal understanding, do you consider what is meant by the devil; is it the Islam (religion) that is present on this earth?"
Balfour's answer: "Every one on the face of the earth, who does not obey God is evil, no matter if he is Muslim, Christian or Jewish."
Question: "Did you commit any act of espionage (spying) for Israel's interest?"
Balfour's answer: "I do not spy for any body's interest, I did not spy for any body's interest. I serve the risen Savior and Him alone."
Prosecutor Sodki requested to have the documents in question for reviewing, checking and translation since he did not do so beforehand and then put them forward for open debate.
Balfour's lawyer Hariri said: "The defense is not responsible for the prosecutor's defaults in presenting all (the documents) that he has, and if these documents contain new evidence, then they are outside the realm of the pressed charge. The court has taken a religious track that has no relation to Balfour charges; meanwhile, these documents do no present any wrongdoing by Balfour."
Prosecutor Sodki argued that "these documents might contain new evidence that could be the basis for new charges and a new case."
After a 45-minute recession the court refused the prosecutor's request based on the fact he had presented these documents and papers in accordance with the existing case and should have reviewed them before referring them to the court. Accordingly there is no need for these documents in this ongoing case.
If the prosecution sees in these papers what could build another case he could take a photocopy of the current file and the documents it contains after the end of the trial to decide what follow-up action he deems appropriate.
The court was adjourned until next Monday, September 1, 2003 for a verdict. The court refused Balfour's lawyers' request for his release on bail.
N.B: Zayna Abu Slieman, an employee from the Canadian embassy made the English translation of the trial's Arabic transcript.
It was learned that the Canadian Minister for Immigration will visit Lebanon to gather firsthand information concerning Balfour's case from the Lebanese officials