Hajjar fights back: ‘I’ve never seen an Israeli’

Maha Al-Azar
Daily Star staff

Claude Hajjar, who was released on Wednesday after being interrogated as a witness in the case against Al-Hayat journalist Habib Younes, expressed outrage at newspaper reports alleging that she had attended a meeting where Israelis were present.
A report in An-Nahar on Thursday had quoted “informed sources” familiar with the investigation as saying that Hajjar had attended an April 14 meeting in Cyprus that grouped Israeli official Odid Zaray, Younes and Etienne Saqr, the president of the civil war-era party the Guardians of the Cedars, which was allied with the South Lebanon Army militia.
Saqr has been in self-imposed exile since the 1980s, residing mainly in Israel.
Hajjar told The Daily Star on Thursday that she is good friends with Younes and has been a friend of the Saqr family since 1989.
“It’s such a shame that newspapers should … play with the fate of people and their families,” she said. “If they saw what they’re doing to people in there (detention centers), it’s worse than World War II.
“I have never seen an Israeli in my life, except on TV,” she added, outraged. “I only went to Cyprus to visit Saqr, because they (the Saqrs) are my best friends. Aren’t we allowed to visit out friends anymore?”
Although Hajjar acknowledged that she was not subjected to physical torture while being interrogated, she described the psychological pressure as “enormous.”
“In three days, I was interrogated by eight people, about three times each,” she said.
Hajjar was picked up from her apartment in the Safra Marine beach resort by plainclothes security agents early Monday.
Her 21-year-old daughter was also detained, but released later that afternoon.
Hajjar said she could not imagine Younes being involved in anything. “He’s a very honest man,” she said.
Hajjar said that Younes had been a member of the Guardians of the Cedars for 25 years. When Younes heard that Saqr was in Cyprus, he traveled to the island, where he spent one-and-a-half days.
l Nine political activists who remained in prison because they could not afford the LL3 million bail set for their release were freed Thursday afternoon after the payment was reduced to LL1 million.
The Free Patriotic Movement supporters were among some 200 activists rounded up in a security sweep between Aug. 7-9.
While the Military Tribunal had listed some 75 activists for release on Monday night, 11 remained in custody because they could not afford the LL3 million bail.
Two of them later managed to raise the amount from friends and relatives and were subsequently released.
On Tuesday, Jean Selwan, the lawyer of the remaining nine, asked for a reduction of the bail amount on the grounds that the activists were all students and could not afford the sum.
The Military Tribunal agreed Wednesday to reduce bail to LL1 million. The FPM supporters were released on Thursday.
An FPM spokesperson said that many people have offered to pay bail for the detainees, including those who were released on Monday.
“As you know these are harsh economic times, and many people had to borrow money to pay their children’s bail,” said the spokesperson. “But it’s really beautiful to know that more than 30 people have already contacted us to offer their help.”
Meanwhile, a Beirut court is examining whether to try lawyer Ziad Aswad, an FPM activist, on charges that he belongs to an unlicensed group and has joined unlicensed demonstrations.
Aswad was arrested and reportedly beaten up by plainclothes intelligence agents in front of the Justice Palace on Aug. 9, and was released without bail on Monday. As a lawyer, Aswad can only be prosecuted after the court obtains permission from the Bar Association.