Michel Samaha

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Michel Samaha
Born (1948-09-09) 9 September 1948 (age 68)
Nationality Lebanese
Years active 1960s – present
Spouse(s) Gladys Samaha
Children Three daughters

Michel Fuad Samaha (born 9 September 1948) is a former minister of information and minister of tourism in Lebanon, and a longtime politician and intelligence operative.[1] Samaha is known for his long and close relationship with the Syrian government,[2] and was one of several Lebanese officials sanctioned by the United States in 2007 for allegedly "contributing to political and economic instability in Lebanon."[3] In December 2012 Samaha was listed by the United States as a global terrorist under section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224.[3][4][5] Arrested and imprisoned in August, 2012,[6] Samaha was convicted in May 2015 of transporting explosives into Lebanon and sentenced to four and a half years in jail.[6] He was released on bail in January 2016.[7] Samaha was sentenced again to 13 years with hard labour in April 2016 for attempting to carry out terrorist acts.[8]

Early life and career[edit]

Samaha was born on 9 September 1948.[9] He became a member of the Phalangist or Kataeb Party in 1964 when he was a student. He was elected head of the party's student body in the 1970s.[10] After graduation, he was appointed by Amine Gemayel as his media advisor. Then he became the chairman of the board of Tele Liban.[11] During the Lebanon civil war, he acted as a mediator between the party and Assad government.[12] Samaha served as an advisor and envoy to Amine Gemayel during the latter's presidency from 1982 to 1988.[13][14]

However, later he joined the Lebanese Forces (LF) faction led by Elie Hobeika.[15] In 1985, he began to act as both a Lebanese political operator and a Syrian-French intelligence operative.[11] He agreed to support the 1985 tripartite agreement between the LF represented by Hobeika, Nabih Berri’s Amal Movement, and Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) on the eve of its signing.[11] Samaha left the LF-controlled areas on 15 January 1986. LF was headed by Samir Geagea during this period.[11]

Samaha was also the advisor and close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Assad family since the time of late President Hafez Assad.[16][17] Samaha served as the advisor of Bashar Assad in regard to his public relations in Europe.[12] Samaha had close ties with the French, Canadian, and US governments and assumed secret diplomatic and security roles.[17]

When his close friend Elias Hrawi became president whose term lasted from 1989 to 1998, Samaha was made by him the information minister in 1992, then tourism minister for six months, then information minister again from 1992 to 1995.[11] Samaha won the Catholic parliamentary seat in North Metn in 1992 after the Taif agreement became effective.[18] However, he lost it in the 1996 and 2000 elections.[11][19] Then prime minister Rafik Hariri appointed him information minister in 2003.[18][20] This appointment was made during the term of president Emile Lahoud whose tenure lasted from 1998 to 2007.[11]

After the 2000 elections, Samaha involved in the establishment of the Movement for Democratic Renewal.[12] However, in 2002, he allied himself with the pro-Syrian political camp in Lebanon. Just before his arrest in August 2012, he was a member of Omar Karami’s pro-Syrian movement, the National Gathering.[12]

Arrest[edit]

Samaha was arrested on 9 August 2012 for his alleged involvement in transporting explosives into Lebanon, with the help of the Syrian Security Chief Ali Mamlouk, to carry out terrorist attacks in order to incite sectarian strife and destabilize the country.[21][22][23] Samaha allegedly confessed on 10 August to the Internal Security Forces Information Branch that Syrian President Bashar Assad wanted bomb attacks in Lebanon.[24] Najib Mikati, the Lebanese Prime Minister, stated in September 2012 that Samaha admitted his involvement of plotting terror attacks in Lebanon.[25] According to leaked interrogation transcripts, Samaha allegedly suggested that the planned bombings were meant to target Lebanese Christian leaders in order to raise sectarian tensions.[26]

The intelligence branch of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF), headed by Wissam al-Hassan who was assassinated on 19 October 2012, played a central role in Samaha's arrest.[27][28] Samir Geagea argued that al-Hassan was assassinated due to his involvement in the arrest of Samaha.[29]

Release[edit]

On 14 January 2016, Samaha was released on bail.[30][31]

US designation as global terrorist[edit]

On 17 December 2012, the US government designated Samaha a "global terrorist" for helping the Syrian government, led by President Bashar Assad, launch attacks in Lebanon.[4][32] In addition, the US Treasury announced that economic sanctions on him were in effect, freezing any assets he owns under US jurisdiction and forbidding US citizens from doing business with him.[32]

Personal life[edit]

Samaha is a Greek Catholic,[12] and holds dual citizenship, Lebanese and Canadian.[32] He is married to Gladys Samaha[12] and has three daughters.[33]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Zahera Harb (15 April 2011). Channels of Resistance in Lebanon: Liberation Propaganda, Hezbollah and the Media. I.B.Tauris. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-84885-120-7. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  2. ^ Muhanna, Elias (9 August 2012). "Syria's Man in Lebanon Arrested: Three Reasons to Pay Attention". Al Monitor. Retrieved 15 February 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "U.S. brands former Lebanese minister linked to Syria a terrorist". Reuters. 17 December 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Designations of Michel Samaha" (Media Note). Washington DC: US Department of State. 17 December 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  5. ^ Black, Ian (9 August 2012). "Lebanese ally of Bashar al-Assad held in Beirut over 'sensitive' security issue". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Choufi, Firase (10 August 2012). "The Arrest of Michel Samaha: A Bold Mysterious Move". Al Akhbar. Retrieved 16 January 2016.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "kareemshaheen" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  7. ^ "Jailed Lebanese ex-minister Samaha released on bail". The Guardian. 14 January 2016. Retrieved 16 January 2016. 
  8. ^ "Lebanon ex-minister jailed for 13 years on 'terror' charges". France 24. Retrieved 2016-04-08. 
  9. ^ "Treasury Designates Lebanese Agent Working on Behalf of The Asad Regime". US Department of Treasury. 17 December 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  10. ^ "Once anti-Syrian regime Michel Samaha becomes relations coordinator with regime". LBC. 9 August 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Choufi, Firas (10 August 2012). "The Arrest of Michel Samaha: A Bold Mysterious Move". Al Akhbar. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f Luca, Ana Maria (10 August 2012). "Confusion after Samaha’s arrest". Now Lebanon. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  13. ^ "Lebanese leaders agree on cease-fire". Schenectady Gazette. 14 March 1984. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  14. ^ Copps, Alan (6 April 1984). "Lebanese, Syrian leaders to hold summit meeting". Observer Reporter. Beirut. IP. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  15. ^ Ali, Moe (1 September 2012). "An illogical conspiracy". Executive. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  16. ^ "What you didn’t know about Lebanon’s Michel Samaha". Al Arabiya. 30 August 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  17. ^ a b AbuKhalil, Asad (13 August 2012). "The Michel Samaha Affair". Al Akhbar. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  18. ^ a b Diab, Youssef (9 August 2012). "Former Lebanese minister detained after discovery of bomb plot". The Daily Star. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  19. ^ Malik, Habib (6 September 1996). "Parliamentary Elections in Lebanon". The Washington Institute. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  20. ^ "Lebanon's new Cabinet: Members list, observations". Lebanon Wire. 18 April 2003. Retrieved 8 March 2013. 
  21. ^ Taylor, Alex (20 October 2012). "Hasan’s pivotal security role". The Daily Star. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  22. ^ "Lebanon military court seeks death penalty for Samaha, Mamlouk". Middle East Online. 20 February 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2013. 
  23. ^ Muir, Jim (9 August 2012). "Syria crisis: Lebanese detention highlights faultlines". BBC. Beirut. Retrieved 29 December 2012. 
  24. ^ "Sources: Sayyed in Samaha's car during Syria-Lebanon bombs transport". The Daily Star. Beirut. 10 September 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  25. ^ "Mikati: Samaha confessed without coercion". The Daily Star. Beirut. 10 September 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  26. ^ "Lebanon and Syria: Peering into the abyss". The Economist. 27 October 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2013. 
  27. ^ "Gemayel says Hassan killing linked to Samaha case, Syria". NOW Lebanon. 21 October 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  28. ^ Radin, CD (21 October 2012). "Beirut car bomb kills anti-Syrian intelligence general". Long War Journal. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  29. ^ "Geagea: Hassan was killed because he uncovered Samaha’s plot". Now Lebanon. 20 October 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  30. ^ "Jailed Lebanese ex-minister Samaha released on bail". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 14 January 2016. 
  31. ^ "Lebanon Releases Ex- Minister Convicted of Terror Charges". ABC News. Retrieved 14 January 2016. 
  32. ^ a b c "US names Lebanese ex-minister Samaha 'global terrorist'". France 24. AFP. 17 December 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  33. ^ Diab, Youssef (10 October 2012). "Judge interrogates Samaha over audio recordings". The Daily Star. Beirut. Retrieved 20 October 2012.