Assad knew about Samaha plot, video indicates

A video broadcast by Lebanese TV channels Thursday showed former minister Michel Samaha and undercover police informant Milad Kfoury discussing plans to carry out explosions, indicating that Syrian President Bashar Assad was aware of the operation.

Both MTV and LBCI broadcast videos showing a conversation between Kfoury and Samaha, during which Samaha talks about the quantities of explosives that he was smuggling, and the targets of the attacks.

The footage, taken from a hidden camera that Kfoury was carrying, began with Samaha handing the informant a plastic bag with money.

“One hundred and seventy thousand (dollars)?” Kfoury asked, as Samaha nodded yes. Samaha then began to explain how much they were collecting in terms of explosives.

He said the shipment contained a number of packages, each included two bombs weighing 20 kilograms each.

Other bombs weighed more than 50 kilograms, he said, adding that all of them were made of TNT.

As Samaha talked about the explosives, Kfoury appeared surprised that the quantity was larger than he expected, saying he should have come in a larger car to collect them.

“All the explosives are ready and the detonators have been sent to you as well,” Samaha said, adding that he would return to Syria to get more explosives later. He also said he received pistols.

The video also revealed that targets included militants and any religious or political figures that were present at militant gatherings.

“I have prepared the implementation phase,” Kfoury said. “But you know the difficulty of this for me. All I care about is that Maj. Gen. Ali [Mamlouk] and the president (Assad) are the only ones who know about this.”

Samaha responded with head and hand gestures, and said: “No one, no one at all… Only two people know, Ali and the president.”

Kfoury also asked him if Hezbollah was aware of the plot, to which Samaha says no.

In a later part of the video, Samaha told Kfoury that the attacks should target “militant gatherings” and military arsenals, but to not be concerned with collateral damage.

Kfoury then clarified that the gatherings will include lawmakers from the area, which is a reference to the northern district of Akkar.

“I have told you that sheikhs will be attending, Sunni sheikhs,” Kfoury emphasized.

“So be it… let them stop attending,” Samaha said with a smile.

During its nighttime newscast, MTV broadcast extended footage in which Samaha shows Kfoury the explosives packed in the trunk of his car.

The video was published after the military court sentenced Samaha to four and a half judicial years in jail, with each judicial year equivalent to nine months. Samaha, who has been in custody since August 2012, will be eligible for release in December.

Politicians, mainly from the March 14 coalition, lashed out at the tribunal over a verdict that they saw as “scandalously” light, and some of them called for completely scrapping the court.

This prompted State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud to call on Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr to challenge the verdict issued against Samaha.

On Thursday, media reports said Saqr was studying the case in order to file an appeal before the Military Appeal Court.

Among the most notable remarks were those of Justice Ministry Ashraf Rifi, who said the verdict was “shameful,” pledging to “work through all means to amend the law of military verdicts.”

A Hezbollah delegation visited the Higher Judiciary Council Thursday in response to Rifi’s comments, according to media reports.

The reports said Hezbollah official Wafiq Safa and MP Nawwar Sahili discussed the matter with the council head and several of its members.

In a statement Thursday, Lebanon’s Higher Judicial Council said that the judicial system recognizes methods of reviewing any decision that is subject to complaint.

It also said that any announcement relating to the referral of a judge to judicial inspection served as a violation of legal protocol.

The council said it renews its confidence in Lebanese judges and acknowledged the “magnitude” of the burden placed on the judiciary in light of the country’s difficult circumstances.

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