Syrian dissident convicted of lying about Hariri

Self-exiled former vice president of Syria found guilty by military court of lying to UN officials during investigation.

rafik hariri 88 (photo credit: )
rafik hariri 88
(photo credit: )
A self-exiled former vice president of Syria has been found guilty by a military court of lying to UN officials investigating the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, a lawyer said Saturday. Former Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam, who left the country in 2005, has accused Syria's president of having threatened former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri before he was assassinated in a February 2005 bombing. Syria's government has denied having any role in the killing, which is being investigated by a UN commission. From his home in France, Khaddam has also called for the Syrian government's overthrow. The lawyer who brought the case against Khaddam said the First Military Criminal Court convicted him in absentia on Aug. 17 of giving false testimony against the Syrian government to UN officials investigating Hariri's killing. Khaddam was convicted of a dozen charges in total and sentenced to life in prison and hard labor, said the lawyer, Hussameddine Habash. Among the other charges, Khaddam was found guilty of conspiring with a foreign country to carry out "aggression against Syria," Habash said, without elaborating. Khaddam was also convicted of having contacts with Israelis because of an interview he gave to an Israeli journalist. Having contacts with Israelis is punishable by 100 years in jail in Syria, which has fought three wars with Israel. Syrian authorities will ask Interpol to arrest and extradite Khaddam, Habash said. The verdict comes two months after authorities ordered the seizure of Khaddam's assets. Khaddam traveled to France in 2005, ostensibly to publish a book, but never returned to Syria. Khaddam was Syria's top official in Lebanon and a member of the ruling Baath party's regional command, its most influential body, for nearly 30 years. But he lost favor in ruling circles after President Bashar Assad took power upon the death of his father, Hafez, in 2000. In an interview aired on al-Arabiya TV, the former vice president accused Assad of directly threatening Hariri before his killing. In another case, a Syrian military court in April 2006 convicted Khaddam of plotting to seize power and trying to incite a foreign attack against Syria. The Syrian parliament has also demanded he be tried on charges of high treason.