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Michel Samaha granted bail

The former minister was found guilty in 2015 of “transporting explosives from Syria to Lebanon to assassinate political and religious leaders.”

Michel Samaha. (AFP/Louai Beshara)

BEIRUT – A former Lebanese minister found guilty of plotting terror attacks in collusion with a Syrian regime figure has been granted bail as his re-trial continues to slowly work its way through the courts.

 

“The Military Court of Cassation has approved a request to release the detainee Michel Samaha on a 150 million Lebanese lira [$100,000] bail,” Lebanon’s state National News Agency reported early Thursday afternoon. ​

 

In May 2015, Lebanon’s military court sentenced Samaha to four-and-a-half years in prison with hard labor after being found of guilty of “trying to carry out terrorist actions and belonging to an armed group.”

 

Samaha was formally indicted in February 2013 alongside Syrian political security chief Ali Mamlouk on charges of “transporting explosives from Syria to Lebanon to assassinate political and religious leaders.”

 

The former tourism and information minister was set to be released from prison by the end of 2015 counting “time served,” as Samaha has been incarcerated since his arrest in August 2012.

 

The military court’s light sentence in May 2015 sparked furor among March 14 protesters as well as Sunni residents in northern Lebanon, who were the planned target of the terror attacks Samaha was coordinating.

 

In June, Lebanon’s Military Court of Cassation accepted an appeal to hold a re-trial of Samaha in-lieu of his short sentence. The re-trial has been be-set by a number of delays, only kicking off on December 17.

 

In his first appearance before the court in his new trial, Samaha claimed he was a victim to entrapment. The next session of the retrial is set to convene next week.

 

Damning videos

 

Samaha caught on tape plotting terror attacks. (YouTube/Future Television)

 

As the political furor grew over Samaha’s original sentence, a number of Lebanese TV stations on Thursday night aired excerpts from videos showing him caught plotting terror attacks in a sting operation.

 

Samaha can be seen in the videos speaking with Milad Kfoury, an informant for Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces who the former minister entrusted with explosives and money in return for targeting political and religious figures in northern Lebanon.

 

In one of the videos—which was filmed surreptitiously by the informant—Samaha hands Kfoury a bag filled with $170,000 and asks, “Should I count them?”

 

The former minister also tells Kfoury that he has two explosive devices weighing 20 kilograms each, and adds that detonators have been prepared as well.

 

Samaha can also be heard reassuring Kfoury that only Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his political security chief know about the plot and that the informant will be “100% protected.”

 

In another video, the Lebanese figure states explicitly that the terror plot can target Akkar MP Khaled Daher, his brother, Free Syrian Army officials, and “a gathering of Syrian gunmen at a certain place.”

 

Samaha also expressed his indifference regarding civilian casualties, telling Kfoury in the previous video excerpt that “collateral damage is allowed.”

 

Yet another video shows Samaha handing over explosives to Kfoury in the former’s residence in Beirut’s Ashrafieh quarter.

Former Minister Michel Samaha was sentenced to four-and-a-half-years in prison for plotting terror attacks. (AFP/Louai Beshara)

The Military Court of Cassation has approved a request to release the detainee Michel Samaha on a 150 million Lebanese lira [$100,000] bail.