|Sunday, 18 January 2004|
Lebanon resumes executions after 5-year lull
BEIRUT, Jan 17 (Reuters)
Lebanon resumed executions on Saturday after a five-year pause, putting to death three convicted killers despite objections by human rights groups and the European Union.
"It is done," said Ibrahim al-Hariri, lawyer for two of the men.
The three men were executed in the courtyard of Beirut's Roumieh prison, two by firing squad and one by hanging.
Theirs were the first executions carried out in Lebanon since President Emile Lahoud, who must sign off on every execution, came to office in late 1998.
Before the execution, human rights groups and the EU had called on Lebanon to abolish the death penalty.
"It is a pity to see this happen," Amnesty International Middle East spokeswoman Nicole Choueiry said. "Lebanon has just demonstrated that the life of three human beings is a worthy price to pay for showing its power.
"It is most likely there will be others," she said. "We hope the lives of the 18 other (condemned) people can still be spared."
The death penalty has been abolished throughout most of Europe but still remains common in parts of the Middle East.
A European Commission spokesman said the EU would have to reassess its ties with Lebanon over the death penalty.
A security source said the bodies of the three men had been taken to a hospital morgue and families could claim them later.
ALL NIGHT VIGIL
Dozens of Lebanese human rights activists marched to parliament carrying black flags on Friday to try to prevent the executions, and others held an all-night vigil near the prison.
"This is inhuman and degrading," said human rights lawyer Lala Arabian on hearing the executions had been carried out.
Badie Hamadeh, killed by firing squad, had been convicted of killing three security officers as they raided his fiancee's home in 2002 and was believed to have links to the Islamist group Osbat al-Ansar, which Washington deems "terrorist".
Judicial documents showed Hamadeh reiterated his innocence before he was killed, saying he had not known the men were security officers and mistook them for attackers.
Another convict, Ahmed Mansour, pleaded for his life and begged forgiveness before being hanged. He had been convicted of killing eight colleagues and wounding five when he opened fire on the Beirut offices of a teachers' pension fund in 2002.
Amnesty said the third man, Remi Zaatar, had been convicted of killing three people in an armed robbery. He and Hamadeh were shot rather than hanged because they were convicted by military courts.
Another 18 people are currently awaiting execution in Lebanon while six had their death sentences commuted to life in prison with hard labour.
A government source declined to say whether more executions would be carried out soon, saying it would be decided on a case by case basis.
He dismissed criticism of the death penalty, saying the convicts' crimes had "rocked the security and stability of the state", and merited death.
Under Lebanese law, both the president and prime minister must approve any executions.
Produced by Lake House