Lebanon: parliament rejects Syrian court's summons of anti-Syrian lawmakers

In a highly unusual step, a Syrian military court issued an arrest warrant for Jumblatt last week and summoned for questioning Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh for making statements hostile to Syria. The two legislators have played a leading role in the campaign to eliminate Syrian influence in Lebanon, the AP reports.

In an equally rare move, the 128-member Lebanese legislature rebuked Syria on Tuesday, saying that its summonses "violated the Lebanese constitution and offended the dignity of parliament and the Lebanese people."

Such a motion would have been unthinkable until April last year, when Syria was forced to withdrew its troops from Lebanon, ending 29 years of control over the country, in the wake of the outcry over the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the AP reports.

The parliamentary motion, read out by speaker Nabih Berri, said the military court's actions against Jumblatt and Hamadeh were "rejected both in form and content."

Legislators voted in favor by a show of hands. The parliament has an anti-Syrian majority, but the 'yes' vote was strengthened by the faction of Gen. Michel Aoun, a Christian leader who has left the anti-Syrian alliance. Lawmakers from two pro-Syrian, Shiite Muslim parties, Hezbollah and Amal, abstained.

The United States has condemned the summonses, with State Department spokesman Sean McCormack calling them a case of Syrian "interference in the Lebanese political process."

Jumblatt has scoffed at his arrest warrant and is not expected to enter Syria.

The court appears to have taken stronger action against Jumblatt than Hamadeh because the political leader of the Druse community was quoted as encouraging the United States to invade Syria. When the Washington Post asked Jumblatt what he wanted from the United States in January, he reportedly replied: "You came to Iraq in the name of the majority. You can do the same thing in Syria."

In other media interviews, Jumblatt called for a regime change in Syria.

A lawyer, Hossam al-Deen Habash, filed a complaint with the authorities about the remark, and a military court issued an arrest warrant on May 22.

Lebanon's prosecutor general has received the summonses for Jumblatt and Hamadeh and a third Lebanese citizen, Fares Khashan, a journalist. Hamadeh and Khashan are wanted for accusing Syria of responsibility for the assassination of Hariri and a string of later bombings that targeted anti-Syrian figures in Lebanon.