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Lebanonwire, May 18, 2002

The Daily Star

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Pakradouni defends probe into Ehden
1978 massacre has been resurrected

Phalange Party president says case will be ‘closed once and for all’

Alia Ibrahim
Daily Star staff

Why has the 1978 Ehden Massacre file been reopened all of a sudden? According to Phalange Party president Karim Pakradouni, the new-found interest is simple the authorities want to “close the book on the case once and for all.”
The file was opened last weekend when five men from Batroun were summoned for questioning by the judiciary regarding their involvement in the massacre; four of them were released mere hours later.
The massacre took place on June 13, 1978 when a unit of Christian militiamen attacked and killed Tony Franjieh, his wife and child as well as almost 30 others at the summer residence of Suleiman Franjieh in Ehden. The killers are widely believed to have acted on orders from then-President-elect Bashir Gemayel who was himself assassinated in September 1982 and allegedly led by jailed Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea.
Saying that he was basing his theory on the “good intentions” of the authorities, Pakradouni maintained that the state had an interest in closing this file.
“They will arrest some people now, proceed with the investigations and then close the file once and for all,” the Phalange Party president said.
According to Pakradouni, the opening of the file was not illegal as the massacre could fall under the category of a political assassination, and therefore be exempt from the General Amnesty Law regarding crimes perpetrated during the civil war.
He added that the case was “never really closed,” pointing out that an arrest was made in 1998 relating to the crime.
But Pakradouni insisted that the General Amnesty Law should be reviewed and should not make exemptions, adding that this would be the best way to avoid political manipulation of such cases. Pakradouni said that while it was perfectly legal to keep the case open, it was a “political miscalculation” and “bad timing” to do so.
“There were between 300 and 400 people involved in the massacre, and those who were 30 or 35 at the time are now in their 60s,” he said.
Pakradouni also said that opening the file would affect the victims of the Ehden Massacre.
“The Ehden Massacre is not a disconnected event, it was preceded and followed by other events, and opening it will touch thousands of people and will create problems in many villages in the North,” he said.
According to him, the case has undoubtedly “opened old wounds,” and people in that region have already begun to appear uneasy.
“Hundreds have called us. They are not sleeping (at home) because they are frightened and many are thinking of leaving the country,” he said, adding that it was essential the authorities limit the investigation’s scope because “they should avoid opening old wounds.”
Pakradouni, however, said that if the arrests were carried out to put pressure on members of the party, “then we will have a different position (regarding the matter).”
A source inside the Phalange Party was confident the reason why the authorities decided to open the file at this time was to put pressure on Health Minister Suleiman Franjieh, the son of Tony Franjieh.
Pakradouni said that only a few individuals were actually aware of what was going on.
“But the authorities know very well who was responsible for the killings,” he said, adding “after the defeat of the Lebanese Forces in 1989, the Lebanese Army was able to put its hand on the archive of the party.
“They know who pulled the trigger, and most of these people now reside abroad,” he said.

Copyright The Daily Star

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