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Let us not forget the Lebanese detainees in Syria's jails

Once again the CLHRF strongly condemns the savage injustice, and the inhumane violations inflicted by the Syrian-appointed Lebanese regime on Mr. Bruce Balfour from his arbitrary arrest until his release on 2 September 2003.

Now that the Beirut military tribunal found Mr. Balfour not guilty of charges of espionage for Israel and ordered his release and deportation, one wonders how can Mr. Raymond Baaklini, the Lebanese ambassador to Ottawa boldly and publicly say that Balfour was guilty even before the investigation and the trial. To quote the ambassador's own words, he told "Al-Mustakbal" newspaper of Montreal on 6 August 2003 that: "security arrests are not carried out in Lebanon unless the authorities are certain that the charges are confirmed". Mr. Balfour was sentenced by the ambassador even before his trial!!!

While this kind of justice might sound absurd and bizarre to Canadians, it is in fact the reality that has been imposed by the Syrian Baathist occupation on the oppressed Lebanese people since 1990.

The question remains without a convincing answer: Why did the Lebanese authorities keep Mr. Balfour's arrest secret for almost two weeks? What was going on during this time, and why in the first place was Balfour arrested if there were no substantial evidence to justify the charges, as the final sentence confirmed?

The CLHRF, as indicated from day one, reaffirms that Mr. Balfour's case was merely a political ploy and a vicious judicial means to pressure the Canadian government  in regards to Syrian and Iranian outstanding issues with Ottawa related to human rights atrocities committed by the two countries against Canadian citizens.

The CLHRF congratulates Mr. Balfour on his release, and on behalf of the Lebanese Canadian community members and NGOs that share its mission of defending human rights values, we thank Mr. Balfour for his love for Lebanon and for his volunteer work to re-grow the fast disappearing Holy Cedar forests.

While Mr. Balfour is now a free man again, hundreds of innocent Lebanese citizens remain arbitrarily detained in Syrian detention centers deprived of all their basic rights while the Syrian authorities keeps denying their whereabouts. Meanwhile the judiciary in Lebanon is politicized and remains under the full control of the Syrian occupier and a mere tool for threatening, persecuting, and repressing dissent and opposition.

We call on our Canadian government and on all the Canadian communities to support the implementation of UN Resolution 520 that calls for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon and for the strict respect for Lebanon's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence under the sole and exclusive authority of the Lebanese Government through the Lebanese Army throughout Lebanon.

Spokesman for the CLHRF
Elias Bejjani