Jumblatt gets his day in court

Jumblatt gets his day in court
Comment: Walid Jumblatt's evidence to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was an impassioned accusation directed at Syria for decades of political meddling and assassinations, says Saad Kiwan.
4 min read
13 May, 2015
Jumblatt has accused the Syrian regime of assassinating his father in 1977 [Getty]

Walid Jumblatt has gone and done it. As usual, the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party took Lebanon by surprise, going against his expected whimsical and meek nature.

He revealed facts and made blunt revelations with remarkable aplomb and determination in his evidence for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague on the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Jumblatt knows about many facts and secrets about the 2000-2005 period, during which Bashar al-Assad came to power in Syria to succeed his father Hafez.

Opposition to Syria

At the time, Jumblatt was in complete agreement with Hariri and also the partner or rather the initiator since 2000 of a battle to challenge Syrian hegemony over Lebanon, in coordination with the Christian Qornet Shehwan gathering.

They demanded the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon after its tutelage, which Jumblatt yesterday described as an occupation that lasted for about 30 years.

Jumblatt gave clear, straightforward and concise answers to the prosecutor's questions, while avoiding too much detail.

Jumblatt went to The Hague with his son Taymour, who he has begun to groom to inherit his political position, his wife Nora and two of his close associates, current minister Wael Abu Faour and former minister Ghazi Aridi.

During his four days on the stand, Jumblatt gave clear, straightforward and concise answers to the prosecutor's questions, while avoiding too much detail. He seemed to have carefully prepared his evidence.

Jumblatt was supposed to testify two months ago in conjunction with former PM and Hariri's companion, Fouad Siniora, but he asked to postpone his testimony till last week. He clearly and directly targeted the Syrian regime, and more specifically Assad, who he outright accused of killing Hariri.

Jumblatt began with the assassination of his father, Kamal Jumblatt, 38 years ago, on 16 March 1977, less than a year after the military intervention of Hafez al-Assad's army in Lebanon.

He recalled his father's last stormy meeting with the Syrian regime three months before his assassination, in which he told an Assad senior that he refused to "enter the big prison". This meeting was similar to the last one that took place between Hariri and Assad on 26 August 2004.

The Druze leader stressed the Syrian regime was the one behind the assassination, presenting evidence on the investigation and the perpetrators who sought refuge that day in Syria. He claimed the judge in charge of the file was prevented from issuing his observations and judgment.

Jumblatt spoke about the assassination of other Lebanese figures throughout the years of the Syrian tutelage from his father to Hariri, and stressed that their killer was the same.

The hardest confrontation took place with the defence lawyers. However, the PSP leader did not let himself be provoked. He kept his calm demeanour.

A political crime

Obviously, Jumblatt cannot provide the facts and merits of the crime and has no knowledge of the identity of the perpetrators. He reiterated the assassination of Hariri was a political crime, classified as such by the International Tribunal itself.

Jumblatt described Assad as being "silly" and "Orientalist".

He also referred to the series of "mysterious and sudden deaths" of senior Syrian officers, the last of whom being Rustom Ghazali, a major general who was Lebanon's actual governor from the eve of Hariri's assassination until the Syrian army's withdrawal on 26 April 2005.

Jumblatt said these "political liquidations" specifically targeted the officers who served in Lebanon or were linked to the Lebanese file and who received their orders from Bashar al-Assad.

Jumblatt chose to turn his evidence into a trial of the Syrian regime, seeking to neutralise as much as possible the regime's Lebanese ally, Hizballah, five members of which have been accused of carrying out the assassination.

It is what he has tried to do since 7 May 2008, and after leaving the March 14 coalition in the summer of 2009. However, he made no secret of his wistfulness toward the 14 March 2005 uprising and its subsequent stages. He went so far as to refer to it more than once to the defence lawyers as "the beautiful times".

Jumblatt described Assad as being "silly" and "Orientalist", claiming that he asked him in their first meeting about the Druze and their whereabouts, and the situation of Christians.

Furthermore, the hints he dropped about former president Emile Lahoud merely confirmed the Syrian regime's tight grip on Lebanese internal affairs.

If Jumblatt believed he was obliged to cooperate with the Syrian regime, especially in the era of Assad senior, there is no doubt that this regime could have traumatised him since he was a 27-year-old man who forced to replace his father in 1977. He has lived with this trauma for 38 years, during which he dealt with those he knows ordered the killing of his father.

The relationship became strained when Bashar al-Assad came to power. This trauma probably made him "a political animal" par excellence, and this is what finally prompted him to say that he was "sitting on the banks of the river waiting for his enemy's corpse to pass by".

Is he convinced that this has become imminent?

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.