BEIRUT — A Lebanese military court has charged Christian politician Samir Geagea over deadly clashes in Beirut last October, a judicial source and broadcaster Al Jadeed said on Thursday, a move that could stoke political tension two months before an election.
An official in Geagea’s Lebanese Forces (LF) party said the charge against him was political, and the investigation into the violence had been political from the start.
Judge Fadi Akiki told Al Jadeed he had charged Geagea two days ago based on “new information” relating to the Teyouneh events, a reference to Beirut’s deadliest street violence in a decade. Reuters could not immediately reach Akiki for comment.
Seven people, all of them followers of the Shi’a Muslim group Hezbollah and its Shi’a ally the Amal Movement, were killed in the Oct. 14 clashes near an old front line of the 1975-90 civil war.
Any attempt to arrest Geagea would likely be resisted by his party, creating the potential for trouble just two months before the parliamentary election, said Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center.
Geagea was summoned to a hearing at military intelligence last October over the violence, but did not attend.
The Oct. 14 violence began as people were gathering for a protest called by Hezbollah against the judge investigating the 2020 Beirut port blast.
Hezbollah, which is heavily armed and backed by Iran, accused the LF of mounting an ambush and perpetrating the killing to try to drag the country to a civil war.
Geagea, a strong critic of Hezbollah who has good ties with Saudi Arabia, has strongly denied this, along with Hezbollah accusations that the LF — which had a powerful militia in the civil war — had established one again.
Geagea has said the trouble began when supporters of the Shi’a parties entered the Christian neighborhood of Ain al-Remmaneh, where they vandalized cars and four residents were wounded before a shot was fired.
Together with parties that view its powerful arsenal as an asset to Lebanon, Hezbollah won a majority in the 2018 election.
— Reuters report, edited for style