LCCC Report on
Bruce Balfour's case
Lebanon should immediately drop the "trumped up" charges
against Bruce Balfour,
OTTAWA - Liberal MP Irwin Cotler says Lebanon should immediately
drop the "trumped up" charges against Bruce Balfour, an evangelical Christian
from Calgary, after a military court again postponed its verdict. Yesterday, judges
granted the prosecution in the trial a second postponement to call witnesses. Mr. Balfour
is accused of spying for Israel
Canadian Pastor Tells Beirut Court He's Not a Spy for Israel
delays verdict on Canadians accused of spying for Israel
Detained Canadian pastor Bruce John Balfour has pleaded not guilty to charges of spying
for Israel, telling a Beirut military court his frequent visits to Lebanon since 1982 were
designed to carry out cedar tree forestation projects with Canadian funding.
Balfour, 52, of Calgary, entered his not-guilty plea before the three-member tribunal at a
trial session held Wednesday with English speaking Brig. Gen. Maher Saffieddin presiding.
Nevertheless, the Canadian embassy appointed a translator of its own to help the
defendant. He was flanked by two Lebanese defense attorneys when he was brought to
Beirut's mid-city building of the military court from the central prison in suburban
Roumieh without handcuffs late in the evening. Two diplomats from the Canadian embassy and
consular section were present as well as the embassy's Lebanese attorney. The trial
session, which ran until midnight, was highlighted by most of Beirut's 12 dailies on
Thursday, but there were no pictures because newspaper and TV photographers were banned
from filming. Balfour said he was unaware that an arrest warrant has been issued for
him before he arrived at Beirut airport on the latest of his trips on July 10. He had
since been in custody. The defendant said he made several trips to Hizbullah-held
territories in south Lebanon along the border with Israel exclusively to ready plans for
cedar forestations in the region. "Were you afraid when you first met Hizbullah
activists?" Judge Saffieddin asked. "No. They were very good to me,"
Balfour responded. The court heard the testimony of four Lebanese and one American
witnesses, who were acquainted with Balfour's activities during his numerous visits to
Lebanon in the past 21 years, and then adjourned to Aug. 27 to hear the defense argument
and hand down the verdict. Canadian pastor Grant Livingston, 81, who is also accused of
spying for Israel in collaboration with Balfour, is being tried in absentia.
BEIRUT, Aug 20 (AFP)
- A Lebanese military court Wednesday postponed its verdict in the case of two Canadians
accused of spying for Israel after prosecutors asked for time to call a new witness.
It was the second postponement that judges had granted the prosecution in the trial of the
two Protestant pastors -- on August 11 the court already agreed a nine-day delay to allow
time for two more witnesses to be called.
Bruce Balfour, 52, stands accused of spying for Israel, where he lives "under cover
of humanitarian activities", during several visits to Lebanon.
Grant Livingstone, 81, who is being tried in absentia, is accused of aiding him.
It is alleged that Balfour made contact with the agriculture ministry and travelled to the
hills of southern Lebanon with the aim of gathering information about military positions
and the Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah, which operates in the region.
If found guilty, the pair face three to 15 years in prison.
Canadian consul Mebs Velgi and embassy lawyer Fawzi Metni were present at Wednesday's
Canadian accused of collaborating with Israel
says he's innocent
man on trial in Lebanon
BEIRUT (AP) - A Canadian Christian
missionary, standing trial in Lebanon on charges of collaborating with Israel, told a
military tribunal Wednesday he is innocent, judicial officials said. The officials said
Bruce Balfour, 52, told the military judges he had not co-operated with or given
information to Israel. The officials said a verdict was expected to be announced at the
next session, scheduled for Aug. 27. According to Lebanese law, collaborating with Israel
is punishable by up to three years in jail. Balfour was arrested July 10 at Beirut airport
on a military court order accusing him of visiting Israel and collaborating with the
enemy. 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 April 2 for his arrest. He was arrested upon his
return to Lebanon last month. Balfour, who is now being held at a prison northeast of the
Lebanese capital, is from Calgary and was in the Middle East directing an evangelical
project to help replant the biblical cedar forests in northern Lebanon. Israeli troops
withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000, but Lebanon and Israel remain technically at war and
Lebanese authorities bar any traveller carrying a passport with an Israeli stamp. It is
rare, however, for such travellers to be arrested.
Updated Wed, 20 Aug 2003 18:39:33
BEIRUT, LEBANON - A Canadian Christian aid worker went on trial in Lebanon Wednesday
on charges he spied for Israel during a humanitarian mission.
Bruce Balfour, 52, was arrested at the Beirut airport on July 10. In a fax sent to
friends, he said he had been jailed because he had visited Israel. He arrived in Lebanon
as part of a Christian group that wants to reforest a mountain range with cedars.
Lebanese officials accuse Balfour of passing on information about Lebanese army and
resistance positions to Israel.
Balfour's friends and family insist he's innocent, saying he simply wanted to help replant
cedar trees in Lebanon. They have criticized the federal government for not giving the
case enough attention.
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Reynald Doiron says Ottawa is waiting to see what
happens at Balfour's trial.
"At this time we cannot say that anything is not going by the Lebanese book, in terms
of the code of criminal procedure or the contents of their criminal code," said
Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation spokesman Elias Bejjani says the
Syrian-controlled Lebanese government is using Balfour as payback for Canada's ban on the
militant group Hezbollah and its criticism of Syria's detention of Canadian Maher Arar.
Written by CBC News Online staff
Canada missionary in
Lebanon trial over Israel ties
By Cynthia Johnston - Reuters
BEIRUT, Aug. 20 A Canadian Christian missionary who sought to replant the biblical
cedars of Lebanon went on trial on Wednesday in a military tribunal on charges of
collaborating with Lebanon's arch-foe Israel.
Bruce Balfour, 52, has been in jail since his arrest
at Beirut airport on July 10 on what judicial sources said were charges of working with
the Jewish state to spy on Hizbollah guerrillas and the Lebanese army. Another Canadian
has been charged in absentia. ''My client is innocent,'' defence lawyer George Assaf told
Reuters. ''They are not serious charges.'' The Canadian embassy in Lebanon said it was
following the case and had visited Balfour in jail about a dozen times. A previous trial
date for August 11 was postponed. Judicial sources said Balfour had visited and stayed in
Lebanon frequently since Israel's 1982 invasion. They accused him and the other suspect of
spying on Hizbollah and the Lebanese army while purporting to work on a reforestation
project last year. The sources said both men sought to locate military positions of
Shi'ite Muslim Hizbollah and the army and pass information about them to Israel. Lebanon
is technically still at war with the Jewish state, which Iranian and Syrian-backed
Hizbollah guerrillas helped drive from south Lebanon in 2000 after a 22-year occupation.
It is rare for a foreigner to be arrested or charged in Lebanon over allegations of
espionage on behalf of Israel, with which Hizbollah guerrillas have sporadically clashed
in a disputed border area since the Israeli pullout.
BIBLICAL CEDARS, MODERN OBSTACLES Balfour's evangelical organisation, Cedars of
Lebanon, said in documents posted on its Web site (www.cedarsoflebanon.ca) that Balfour had gone to Lebanon to
replant cedar trees. Some evangelical Christians believe the ancient temple of King
Solomon must be rebuilt with cedar from Lebanon as one of the conditions of the second
coming of Christ. There is also a belief among some that the return of Jews to the Holy
Land would bring forth the fiery battle between God and Satan, also known as Armageddon --
convictions that could be viewed with great suspicion in Lebanon. ''The Bible speaks of
the people of Lebanon being surrounded by the cedars of Lebanon. Now they are surrounded
by barren slopes,'' Balfour was quoted as saying in an article posted on the Web site. ''I
believe our project is very dear to the heart of God.'' He said he made contacts about
replanting the trees, but came into conflict with Hizbollah. Balfour's family and friends
said they believed the case against him was political. ''Bruce Balfour is a Canadian who
is no spy,'' they said in a statement on the Web site. Lebanon earlier this year reduced
the sentences of four men, including a former senior figure in a rival Shi'ite militia,
who had been convicted of providing Israel with intelligence on Hizbollah and the army.