3 FPM members arrested in Zahle in weekend crackdown
20/07/04 - Daily Star
Intelligence agents clamped down on Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) members in Zahle during the weekend, summoning more than six members for investigation and illegally arresting three without valid accusations, according to an FPM statement Monday.
The spokesman for the Army Guidance and Orientation department could not be reached for comment on Monday.
"The only accusation against us is being FPM members, and wanting a free sovereign Lebanon," said Fares Masaad, who was called in for investigation by military intelligence Friday and detained till Saturday. "Our houses were illegally searched, the investigation was humiliating and we were not allowed to contact our lawyers."
Masaad was rather reluctant to talk but said he was accused of being a member of a banned party, and was told to stop meeting with other FPM members.
"They said that our meetings were threatening Lebanese internal security," he said sarcastically. "How can a simple lunch meeting, where we talk about common political issues, be a threat to internal security?"
Saleem Aoun, FPM coordinator in Zahle and a member of the Order of Engineers and Architects, said that military intelligence agents tried to "threaten them" to force them to stop all their meetings, calling them an "unauthorized party".
"Apparently, they have not heard of a recent judicial verdict, which clearly said the FPM was not a banned political party, and that being an FPM member was not a reason for trial," he said.
Aoun noted that since the last municipal elections, military intelligence agents have been cracking down on them and trying to stop them from meeting. "Apparently the results of the elections scared them," he said.
Jbeil MP Fares Soueid criticized the arrests, saying that whether there had been a judicial verdict ruling that the FPM was not a banned party or not, the issue of freedoms in Lebanon is sacred and should not be touched.
"But we have to note that the current authorities, who work under the Syrian mandate do not care about liberties," he said.
The Human and Humanitarian Rights Association denounced the arrests, saying they were against basic human rights and freedoms like the right of opinion, expression and political work, and called on the authorities to stop these violations.
"None of those arrested was charged with any criminal offenses, except for participating in political meetings, something which falls within their constitutional rights," the statement said.