Ex-Premier Omar Karami has proposed a national referendum to determine whether Lebanese Forces commander Samir Geagea should be freed or kept in a defense ministry underground cell to serve out jail terms adding up to 120 years. Karami, who met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus over the weekend, made the proposal in remarks carried by the London-based Al Hayat on Thursday. This is the first time that a referendum is proposed on Geagea’s freedom.
Geagea, who has already spent nine years in solitary confinement in Yarze, had been convicted of engineering the 1987 midair assassination of then Prime Minister Rashid Karami as he was returning to Beirut by an army helicopter from Tripoli during the height of the civil war. Geagea was originally sentenced to death but the capital punishment was commuted to life imprisonment. So were three other verdicts handed down by court on the former Christian warlord since his arrest in 1994. “I am not ready to drop my legal status as a plaintiff in the case. But I have no objection to Samir Geagea’s release as a result of a national referendum,” said Omar Karami, who also served as prime minister of Lebanon in 1991.
The Lebanese Forces has lately been clamoring for Geagea’s release either through a new general amnesty bill or a special presidential parole. Communist Party Leader George Hawi is engaged in an initiative with Syria and President Lahoud’s regime to improve Geagea’s appalling prison conditions as a step toward his freedom.