A top Lebanese security chief said Thursday he and other officials are willing to stand trial to clear their names over opposition allegations of negligence in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Jamil Sayyed, head of the powerful General Security Department and a close aide of President Emile Lahoud, lashed out at opposition demands for the resignation of security chiefs, indicating they will not step down. He said he was starting legal proceedings to clear his name and those of other security agency heads.
The government and its Syrian backers have been accused by the opposition of being behind the Feb. 14 assassination. The opposition and the Hariri family have called for an international investigation and the resignation of five security agency chiefs and the prosecutor general, alleging negligence.
The opposition is calling for resignations for political reasons, Sayyed told a news conference. "Do not mix politics with crime. ... Let justice decide."
"All the heads of security institutions are ready for trial and accountability," Sayyed told a news conference. "We have no secrets to be embarrassed of."
"I have decided on behalf of the commanders without consulting them ... to sue ourselves through gathering all the information touching on the institutions ... so that responsibilities are determined," he added.
Sayyed, a retired army major general who has been in the post since 1998, is considered one of the most influential security chiefs in the country. His General Security Department, which is part of the Interior Ministry, is in charge of border points, issuing passports and censorship of publications.
But since his appointment by Lahoud, the department has taken on additional significance and had become the nerve center of the Lebanese security and intelligence network.
Before moving to the General Security Department, Sayyed was deputy head of Lebanese military intelligence.
Rescuers found the pilot of one of the two Su-34 fighters that had collided in midair in the Far East on January 18