Younes, Bassil, Saqr and Saba indicted
‘Conspiring with the enemy’ charge could bring death sentence

Youssef Diab
Daily Star correspondent

The judiciary on Monday indicted Al-Hayat’s editorial secretary Habib Younes and media figure Antoine Bassil, together with two others on charges of conspiracy with the Israeli enemy a charge that carries a possible death sentence.
The two others include the leader of the Guardians of the Cedars, Etienne Saqr, and one of his followers, Antoine Saba, also known as Antoine Shalfoun.
The four were accused of plotting to help the Israeli Army, forming a group aimed at undermining the authority of the Lebanese state, revealing crucial information to the enemy and entering Israel.
Meanwhile, three others, Claude Hajjar, Osama Ayoub and Joseph Tawq, were also accused of contacting the enemy and could face jail terms of up to 15 years.
The seven now have to face trial by the Military Tribunal.
Although Bassil and Younes have been in custody for four months, the others remain free. Saqr has already been tried in absentia on other charges and was sentenced to death.

The official indictment highlighted Bassil’s and Younes’ contacts with the Israelis as far back as 1982, during the course of their duties as journalists for the Phalange Party’s daily newspaper, Al-Amal.
Younes previously worked in the paper’s international affairs section, which was headed by Bassil.
According to the indictment, Bassil agreed with the deputy coordinator of the Israeli activities in Lebanon, Odid Zaray, to exchange information about the prevailing situation in Lebanon. After receiving the information, Zaray would send, in return, some material that Bassil would then publish under the pen name of Samir Karam.
The indictment said the relationship between Zaray and Bassil continued until 1985, when Bassil left his job at Al-Amal and began working for the CBN television station and the Israeli-run Middle East Television station. Bassil was based in Marjayoun, where Younes used to supply him with information on the situation in the liberated areas.
The indictment said that following this phase, Younes was contacted by Saqr, who was living in Achrafieh. Saqr told Younes that the Voice of the South radio station was looking for a correspondent in the liberated areas and told him to go to Israel to meet with the radio station’s managers.

Younes, according to the indictment, took the ferryboat from Beirut to Naqoura and then drove to the radio station’s compound in Metulla. There, Younes met with the radio station’s manager, an Israeli calling himself Salim Nasri, before being driven to Tel Aviv to meet the coordinator of Israeli activities in Lebanon, Uri Lubrani.
Lubrani urged Younes to supply him with all the required information on the Lebanese domestic scene. It was agreed that Younes would send Lubrani a weekly message on cassette tape about the liberated areas, with a special focus on the Shiite areas.
The day after the meeting with Lubrani, Antoine Saba came to see Younes along with an Israeli Army intelligence agent, known by the code name of Shlomo. The two drove Younes to Marjayoun to spend the night and he subsequently returned to Beirut.
A few days later, Younes taped his first message about the war of the Palestinian camps and the attitude of Shiite leaders toward the Palestinians. He would send the tape to Zaray and this practice continued until 1990.

Because of the deterioration in the security situation, Saqr moved out of Beirut and settled in Jezzine. From time to time, Younes would go to Jezzine to meet with Saqr and brief him on the latest developments. During this time, Saqr was in constant touch with Israeli top leaders such as Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.
In 1991, Younes allegedly sent a full report to the Israelis detailing the political affiliations of the Lebanese team that was negotiating a settlement with Israel.
The indictment said that in 1996, Younes received a phone call from Zaray, who was in Washington and told Younes to go work for Israel’s Arabic language radio station, broadcasting from Israel.
During a weekly program, the station broadcast Younes’ reports, which were critical of the Syrian Army’s presence in Lebanon, but did not attach his name to those reports.

The indictment also said that Younes went to Cyprus in May 2001, along with Hajjar, Tawq and photographer Ayoub to meet with Saqr.
There, they agreed to revive the Guardians of the Cedars, take part in demonstrations calling for a Syrian withdrawal, and launch student cells throughout Lebanese universities.