Saturday, April 11, 2009

Nasrallah confirms Egypt holding Hizbullah member

Resistance chief denies plot to attack country

By Therese Sfeir for the Daily Star

BEIRUT: Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said Friday that his party did not have branches in Arab countries or anywhere else in the world. In a television appearance on Al-Manar TV, Nasrallah denied accusations launched by Egyptian authorities that party members were planning to launch attacks in Egypt.

He also urged Arab leaders not to be misled by claims aimed at stirring conflicts between Hizbullah and Arab states and to verify all information they receive from the media. Nasrallah noted that on November 19, 2008, one month before the Israeli war on Gaza, the Egyptian authorities announced the detention of a Lebanese citizen, who was a Hizbullah member, accusing him and others of attempting to smuggle arms and equipment into Gaza.

He added that one month after the Israeli war, a huge campaign was launched against Hizbullah, due to the party's position regarding resistance.

"Brother Sami is a member of Hizbullah, and what he was doing on the Egyptian-Palestinian borders was
a logistic mission to transport arms and equipment to the Palestinian lands; all other accusations are false and full of imagination and bluffs," he said.

"If helping the Palestinians whose land is seized and who are being killed and besieged is an accusation, then I thereby declare that I am guilty of this accusation," he added.

He noted that the lawyers of those detained in custody were prevented from attending the interrogation sessions. Nasrallah said the Egyptians were trying to present new gifts to the Israelis and the Americans, adding that Cairo's accusations were aimed at provoking the Egyptian people and distorting Hizbullah's clean image.

Nasrallah stressed that Hizbullah did not have any plans whatsoever to attack Arab states, adding that the party's only goal was to "liberate the Lebanese territories and protect Lebanon from Israeli threats." "Hizbullah does not want to engage in a conflict with any Arab or foreign state; we are a humble Lebanese party and do not have branches in any other country," he said. He also ruled out claims that the party was trying to spread the Shiite ideology around the world.

Egypt's public prosecutor ordered on Thursday that 49 people held for plotting attacks on behalf of Lebanese Shiite group Hizbullah be kept in custody for a further 15 days, a judicial source said.

"The public prosecutor decided to detain the members of the group affiliated with Hizbullah for 15 days for questioning on suspicion of membership in a clandestine organisation calling for rebellion" against the country's leadership, the source said.

On Wednesday, a statement from the prosecutor said an investigation determined the men had been commissioned by Nasrallah to conduct attacks in Egypt.

Arrests were first made in November and the rest of the group were rounded up by the end of last month, a security official said. On Thursday, state media reported that one of those arrested, Sami Hani Shihab, was suspected of heading a Hizbullah unit responsible for neighboring states and that Palestinians and Sudanese were among those arrested.

The suspects are also accused of espionage, forging official documents and preparing explosives. The detention may be renewed every 15 days for six months, when the prosecution must either charge them or release them.

Montassar el-Zayat, a lawyer for some of the defendants, said Shihab's brother had asked him to represent him but he had not been allowed to see him or attend interrogations. Zayat accused security of bringing politically motivated charges against the suspects.

"My impression is that it is a fabricated case created by Egyptian security in the context of bad relations between Hizbullah and Egypt. It is a pressure card," he said.

Touching on Lebanese affairs, Nasrallah denied claims that if the opposition won the majority, it would overthrow President Michel Sleiman to elect Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun. "We and the FPM have elected President Sleiman by our free and full will, and we have good and confident relations with him since he was an army commander. Some malicious politicians and journalists will not disrupt this relationship," he stated. - With AFP