Hizbullah launched a furious media salvo at Military Appeals Court presiding Judge Alice Shabtini for releasing four members of the Al-Alam family convicted of collaboration with Israel.
“Some members of the Lebanese judiciary committed a dangerous precedent by releasing a group of hardcore Israeli agents who spent only a year and a few months [in jail] for verdicts that sentenced them from five to 15 years in prison. The reasons for the release of the agents remained unknown as much as they are suspicious,” Al-Manar said.
“Why did Judge Shabtini do what she did at this time? Yet the most dangerous question is: To whom does Judge Shabtini present her credentials while she is one of the candidates to the presidency of the Higher Judicial Council?” Al-Manar asked.
Shabtini responded in an interview with the An-Nahar newspaper on Monday saying military courts "do not discriminate in their verdicts" and added the three released were "very sick" and that it cost the state money to hold and treat them during their retrial.
“We cannot discriminate between one accused and another. It is not true that I was the one who released them. There are four officers with me in the court. There is an agreement within the court as a whole to release them. Also, Prosecutor General Saeed Mirza deemed that the matter be left to the court [to decide],” Shabtini said.
“I am against Israel and I have no enemy but Israel. But when we want to issue a verdict on people, all must be treated [equally],” Shabtini added.
The Military Tribunal previously sentenced the four Al-Alams to prison for 10 to 15 years after convicting them of collaboration with Israel. The four were released on bail last week after having been held for two years and 10 months, judicial sources said Sunday.
The release took place after the original verdict was overturned by the Military Appeals Court, which ordered a retrial. The appeals court, headed by Shabtini, comprises four army brigadier generals.
Hizbullah's full court press against Shabtini is believed to be linked to a long-simmering competition to fill the vacant post of the president of the Higher Judicial Council, the country’s highest judicial body.
Shabtini is reported to be backed for the post by President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati, while Hizbullah-allied Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun has nominated one of his supporters, Judge Tanious Mashlab, for the post.