The Lebanese judiciary has sentenced to death in absentia former official in the Syrian Socialist National Party Nabil Alam and party member Habib Shartouni in the assassination of President-elect Bashir Gemayel 35 years ago.
As the Judicial Council went into session on Friday, members of the Syrian Socialist National Party held a protest amid tight security measures. The demonstrators hoisted posters of Shartouni and shouted slogans in his support outside the Justice Palace.
After the sentence was announced, Kataeb Party and Lebanese Forces members gathered to celebrate at Sassine Square, in Beirut’s Achrafieh district where Gemayel was killed in a bomb explosion on September 14, 1982 only 20 days after his election as president.
The bomb went off at Kataeb’s headquarters, leaving another 23 people dead.
Shartouni had confessed to planting and detonating the bomb and was given 24 hours to turn himself in when the trial was opened in November 2016. But he did not appear before the court and was tried in absentia.
He is believed to be living in Syria, having escaped prison in October 1990 after Syrian troops stormed east Beirut and brought down the government that was led by Gen. Michel Aoun (Lebanon’s current president).
In 2014, media reports said Alam had died. But this week, an interview for Shartouni was published in the local Al-Akhbar newspaper, which described him as a “hero.”
In its verdict, the judicial council said the two suspects carried out an act of terrorism and played a part in hampering attempts to stabilize the country.
“Finally, the verdict was released in the name of the Lebanese people after 35 years of working for (justice) for Bashir and his friends,” Solange Gemayel, Bachir’s widow, said after the court’s decision.
Gemayel thanked the council and said the decision allowed the state to regain its authority and the Lebanese peoples’ belief in constitutional institutions.