Asir Verdict to be Issued Sep. 28 as Lawyers Barred from Trial
The Military Court on Tuesday adjourned the trial of detained Islamist cleric Ahmed al-Asir in the case of the Abra clashes to a September 28 session during which a verdict will be issued, the National News Agency said.
Tuesday's session witnessed a heated debate pitting Asir's lawyers against the court's president, Brig. Gen. Hussein Abdullah, and Assistant State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Hani al-Hajjar.
The debate erupted after the court rejected the lawyers' request for hearing the testimonies of former president Michel Suleiman, ex-PM Najib Miqati, former army chief General Jean Qahwaji and a number of ministers and security chiefs.
Asir's lawyers withdrew from the session after their request was rejected, which prompted the court president to bar them from future trial sessions and announce that he would appoint a military lawyer for the detained cleric.
Describing the lawyers' demands as “infeasible,” Abdullah said: “This is a judicial and not a political trial... The defense lawyers' approach reflects a will to obstruct the trial.”
Asir hit back saying any trial delay would reflect negatively on him seeing as he has been “in solitary confinement for more than two years.”
“I'm not facing a fair trial. Had it been fair, the court would have heeded our requests for unveiling those who fired the first bullet and identifying those who should have been here instead of me,” Asir added.
Asir claims Hizbullah fighters played a role in the deadly 2013 clashes that erupted in the Sidon suburb of Abra between his group and the army.
The Islamic cleric was detained at Beirut's airport in 2015 as he tried to flee the country using a fake Palestinian passport.
The firebrand anti-Hizbullah cleric had been on the run since the 2013 clashes. The fighting killed 18 Lebanese soldiers and a number of his supporters.
The army seized his headquarters after 48 hours of clashes, but Asir was able to escape with several of his followers.
In 2014, a military judge recommended prosecutors seek death sentences for Asir and 53 others, including pop star-turned-Islamist militant Fadel Shaker.
Asir was a virtual political unknown until the outbreak of Syria's civil war.
He began making headlines after the conflict erupted by criticizing Hizbullah and its ally Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Although he was born to a Shiite Muslim mother, his discourse was highly sectarian and he often accused Lebanon's army of failing to protect Sunnis and being beholden to Hizbullah.
He encouraged his supporters to join Syria's mainly Sunni rebels and to rise up against Hizbullah.
Asir also hit headlines with media stunts, including by taking a group of his followers to the trendy winter ski resort of Faraya in early 2013.