Lebanon court releases Islamist whose arrest triggered clashes


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BEIRUT-- A Lebanese court on Tuesday released on bail an Islamist whose arrest earlier this month triggered deadly clashes between rival Syrian groups in the northern city of Tripoli.

A military investigative judge approved releasing Shadi Mawlawi until a hearing date is set, the official National News Agency announced in a brief report. A judicial official was quoted as saying in wire reports that the bail amounted to the equivalent of $333, and that Mawlawi was put under a travel ban.


The outspoken critic of Syrian President Bashar Assad was arrested in Tripoli on May 12 and charged with belonging to an armed group. Sunni Islamists in Tripoli deny the allegations and say he was only helping Syrian refugees in north Lebanon. Hours after his release, Mawlawi arrived in Tripoli and was quoted as praising ‘the revolution in Syria.’

Mawlawi’s arrest nearly two weeks ago sparked demonstrations and confrontations with the Lebanese army. Gunfights erupted in Tripoli between Sunni supporters of the Syrian revolt and members of the Alawite sect who support the Assad regime. The fighting left at least eight people dead and more than a dozen wounded, heightening fears that Syria’s troubles would agitate Lebanon’s sectarian factions.

The troubles later spread to the capital, Beirut, where two people were killed overnight Monday during fighting between rival Sunni gunmen hours after an anti-Assad Sunni cleric and his bodyguard were shot to death at a Lebanese checkpoint in northern Lebanon.

Ahmad Safadi, a Lebanese government official, welcomed Mawlawi’s release and told Lebanon’s Al-Jadeed television that it brought back ‘our dignity and pride in our city.’

Coinciding with Mawlawi’s release, and suggesting that tensions might calm in Tripoli, local media reports said Tuesday that organizers of a sit-in to protest the fate of Islamist detainees packed up their tents and left Tripoli’s Nour square. The issue of Islamist detainees held without charge in the country has been an issue at the center of recent events in the coastal city.


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--Alexandra Sandels