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Lebanon: Investigate Syrian Opposition Figure’s Fate

Nawar `Abboud Disappeared Following Detention by Military Intelligence

(Beirut) - Lebanese authorities should disclose all available information on the whereabouts of Nawar `Abboud, who disappeared three months ago after Lebanese Military Intelligence detained him in Tripoli, Human Rights Watch and the Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) said today. Following a request for information by the general prosecutor, Military Intelligence stated on February 11, 2009 that they released `Abboud, a Syrian opposition figure, on December 25, 2008, but he has not been seen since.

`Abboud is an accountant in United National Alliance, a political group affiliated with Ref`at al-Asad, a Syrian opposition figure and uncle of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Asad. Abboud's family and colleagues fear he may have been forcibly transferred to Syria.

"Lebanon has a painful history of people being detained and illegally transferred to Syria, where they disappear," said Nadim Houry, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The best way to show that these dark days are over is for the Lebanese authorities to conduct a transparent and serious investigation of the case."

On December 24, plainclothes members of the Lebanese Military Intelligence came to Abboud's office in Tripoli and took him, along with two Lebanese employees, to the al-Qubbeh military base for interrogation. Lebanese Military Intelligence released the two Lebanese - one on December 24 and the other on December 26. They also stated that they released `Abboud at 14:20 on December 25 and that his possessions were returned to him, including his two cars, which Military Intelligence had seized.

However, `Abboud's family and colleagues have not seen him or located his cars despite extensive efforts to find him. According to a letter dated January 14 from General Security (the security agency responsible for foreigners and border crossings in Lebanon), there is no record of `Abboud leaving Lebanon through an official border crossing.

When the media asked the ministers of justice and interior about Abboud's disappearance, they deferred to the General Prosecutor's Office. In a televised interview on the Arabic News Network (ANN), Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar stated that the General Prosecutor's Office is undertaking an investigation into `Abboud's disappearance, but did not give further information. For his part, Minister of Interior Ziad Baroud told the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Ra'i on February 11 that: "When the General Prosecutor is seized of a matter, I do not intervene."

Following a request for information by `Abboud's lawyer, the General Prosecutor's Office has repeated the army's statement that its intelligence services released `Abboud on December 25.

"The General Prosecutor's investigation cannot limit itself to what the army has said," said Marie Daunay, president of CLDH. "The investigation needs to dig deeper and shed light about the circumstances surrounding `Abboud's alleged release and subsequent whereabouts."

On March 5, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the ministers of defense, interior and justice to request that military intelligence provide further details about the whereabouts of `Abboud. To date, no answer has been received.

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