Lebanon train bomb suspects on trial
11 April 2007, Beirut (dpa) - The trial of four Lebanese accused of attempting to bomb trains in Germany was adjourned in Beirut Wednesday after an eight-minute opening session - one of the shortest court hearings in the history of the Lebanese judicial system. A Beirut court meanwhile issued arrest warrants for two other suspects - one detained in German custody, and one still at large. "The court session was adjourned in eight minutes until April 18. I initially wanted it to be in May, but it was decided
11 April 2007
Beirut (dpa) - The trial of four Lebanese accused of attempting to bomb trains in Germany was adjourned in Beirut Wednesday after an eight-minute opening session - one of the shortest court hearings in the history of the Lebanese judicial system.
A Beirut court meanwhile issued arrest warrants for two other suspects - one detained in German custody, and one still at large.
"The court session was adjourned in eight minutes until April 18. I initially wanted it to be in May, but it was decided by the judge that way," defence lawyer Fawaz Zakariyeh told Deutsche Presse- Agentur dpa after the trial was adjourned.
"Beirut criminal court is not entitled to try the four suspects in Beirut because they were arrested in - and are all from - northern Lebanon. So their trial should be in the northern port city of Tripoli," he added.
The four main suspects are Jihad Hamad,22, Khaled al-Hajj Dib,19, Ayman Hawwa,22, and Khalil Bubu,23. They face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
A Judicial source told dpa that Bubu, also faces another trial for links to a bomb attack on a Lebanese army barracks last year. He is an electrician and the other three are students.
Meanwhile, a Beirut court issued arrest warrants for al-Hajj Dib's brothers Saddam, who remains at large, and Youssef Mohammed, who is custody in Germany, to try them in absentia. A judicial source said those tried in absentia would get tougher sentences if found guilty.
According to lawyer Zakariyeh, the atmosphere inside the court "was pleasant, and in accordance with the Lebanese judicial system the accused were allowed five minutes to speak to their family members after the court hearing was adjourned."
The head of the Beirut criminal court, Michel Abu Arraj, presided over the court along with three other judges.
Hamad, clad in a blue shirt and blue jeans, his hair cropped and with only a short beard, appeared relaxed and was smiling at his parents during the hearing.
Only Bubu was wearing the long traditional Arab abbaya - an outfit that covers the whole body - and had a long beard, which reflects his religious background.
The four accused arrived at the Lebanese Justice Palace in a closed armoured jail truck - accompanied by three black cars from the Lebanese special forces - from the central prison in Roumieh, 20 kilometres north-east of the capital.
Traffic near the Justice Palace was halted temporarily to allow the convoy to enter. No German officials were present in court, a German embassy source said.
Judge Arraj had decided on March 5 to start the trial Wednesday after interrogating the four. Al-Hajj Dib's brother, Youssef Mohammed, was arrested in Germany last August on similar charges.
"The Lebanese judge will also be trying Youssef al-Hajj Dib in absentia, despite the fact that he is in a German jail," lawyer Fawaz Zakariyeh added.
Lebanon's general prosecutor, Said Mirza, has opposed transferring Lebanese suspects to Germany. They were "Lebanese citizens," he said, "their trial needs to take place here, and they must serve here any sentence they may be given."
Jihad Hamad had already confessed under judicial interrogation in March to having placed a suitcase containing explosives on a train in Germany in July last year.
The bomb had been planted on a train from Aachen to Hamm, while another bomb was planted in a train heading from Moenchengladbach to Koblenz.
Hamad was quoted during his interrogation as saying that his intentions had not been to kill people, "but to avenge any harm done to Muslims after the publication in Denmark of cartoons that were harmful to the Prophet Mohammed."
German federal police said the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in Western and some Arab media had been the "detonator" which pushed the alleged terrorists to organize a plot to bomb German trains last July 31.
The plan failed when the bombs concealed on the two regional trains did not explode because of faulty detonators.
Youssef al-Hajj Deeb and Jihad Hamad, the two main suspects, were said by Lebanese security sources to have been influenced by the late al-Qaeda chief in Iraq Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi.
Subject: German news