Lebanese ally of Syria's Assad detained
Published Thursday 09/08/2012 (updated) 12/08/2012 11:07
Lebanese policemen stand guard at the entrance of a residential building
where former Lebanese government minister Michel Samaha lives, in
Beirut on August 9, 2012. (Reuters/Mohamed Azakir)
BEIRUT (Reuters) -- A former Lebanese government minister with close ties to Syrian President Bashar Assad was detained in Lebanon on Thursday for questioning over what the Lebanese prime minister described as security-related matters.
A security source said Michel Samaha, detained in the early hours, was being questioned about alleged plans to cause instability in Lebanon.
Elias Aoun, head of the Lebanese journalists' union, said Prime Minister Najib Mikati had told him Samaha had been held following an order from the acting public prosecutor.
Samaha has been an outspoken supporter of Assad during the 17-month-old uprising against his rule, echoing an official Syrian narrative that portrays the opposition as terrorists.
He served as a minister in three Lebanese governments between 1992 and 2004 -- a period when Syria dominated politics and security in its smaller neighbor. Samaha is also a former member of parliament.
In 2007, he was named on a White House-issued list of Lebanese and Syrian figures suspected of working to undermine Lebanon's stability and the Western-backed government in office at the time.
The list also included Assef Shawkat, a senior Syrian security official and Assad's brother-in-law, who was killed in a bomb blast in Damascus last month.
Further details on Samaha's detention were not immediately available. Live television footage showed members of the security forces searching his house.