How a former Lebanese politician was caught on tape plotting terrorism on behalf of Bashar al-Assad — and still got away with it

The Daily Beast reports: Rarely does a criminal case fall into a judge’s lap as open-and-shut as Michel Samaha’s.

Yanked out of his bed by Lebanese police in a dawn raid on August 9, 2012, within one day the four-time cabinet minister had confessed to conspiring with Syrian officials, up to and including President Bashar al-Assad himself, to blow up Sunni Muslim Lebanese politicians, religious figures, and bystanders at Ramadan fast-breaking gatherings. Thanks to a series of videos leaked to the media, a flabbergasted nation could watch with their own eyes as Samaha, a veteran politician and household name, produced bags of explosives, timers, and detonators from his car, and spoke casually of plans to murder an MP, members of the MP’s family, and senior clerics (“let them be buried”), with express indifference to additional civilian casualties (“whoever departs along the way, departs!”). There seemed no conceivable way out of a severe punishment, and at his formal indictment in February 2013, the judge sought the death penalty.

And yet, on the 14th of this month, Samaha walked out of Lebanon’s Rayhanieh prison and returned to his family home in Beirut an almost-free man, released on $100,000 bail. Despite the gravity of the charges brought against him in 2013 — plotting to carry out “terrorist acts” using explosive devices; planning assassinations of political and religious figures; instigating sectarian conflict; and forming an armed group—he was sentenced to just four and a half years’ imprisonment in May 2015, in a decision legal observers said reeked of Syrian influence over the judiciary. [Continue reading…]

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