Hindi 3 Years, Younis 3 Years, Bassil 4 Years

Samir Geagea's former political advisor Toufic Hindi has been sentenced to three years in jail on a charge of collaborating with Israel to agitate against Syria's role in Lebanon. He was also stripped from his civil rights.
The Beirut military tribunal handed down the verdict shortly before midnight Tuesday-Wednesday, giving journalists Habib Younis of Al Hayat a 3-year term and Antoine Bassil four years on the same charge. They were stripped of political rights too.

Hindi's wife, journalist Claude Abu Nader, burst in tears as presiding judge Brig. Gen. Maher Safieddine read out the sentences at an open session of the three-man tribunal.

"This is a political verdict to cover up the campaign of repression which is still going on," she sobbed, hugging her 9-year-old son. "My husband is a scapegoat."

Butros Harb, the defense attorney of Hindi and Younis, said he would appeal the sentences inside of the legal period of 15 days, calling them a "disillusion."

The court also sentenced the one-time security chief of Geagea's Lebanese Forces Ghassan Touma, to death in absentia for allegedly inciting the other defendants to collaborate with Israel.

Etienne Saqr, code-named Abu Arz, leader of the now defunct Cedar Guards civil war militia, also given a death sentence in absentia on the same grounds.

It was the second absentia death sentence for Touma, who lives in the United States, and Abu Arz, who lives in Israel. Both were stripped of national rights.

Two senior activists of Gen. Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement, Salam Samaha and Elie Kayrouz, were cleared by the court from a charge of withholding information from the authorities about anti-Syria activity.

Beirut, Updated 26 Mar 02, 18:20