16 September 2005
BEIRUT â€” Police on Wednesday arrested three officials of an ultranationalist Christian group, a day after they called on Lebanon to kill Palestinians and withdraw from the Arab League, a judicial official said.
Prosecutor Mukhtar Saad said the three members of the outlawed Guardians of the Cedars â€” Naji Audi, journalist Habib Younis and Joseph Khoury â€” were detained for â€œissuing a statement that incites internal sedition.â€
On Tuesday, the detainees issued a statement during a Press conference saying â€œevery Lebanese should kill a Palestinian.â€ The group has long called for the expulsion of Palestinian refugees and their descendants from Lebanon.
The comments revived bitter memories of Lebanonâ€™s 1975-90 civil war, which pitted armed militias from across this countryâ€™s sectarian divides against each other. Right-wing Christian forces, including the Guardians of the Cedars, joined forces with Israeli troops who invaded in 1982, waging a bloody campaign against Palestinians led by the late Yasser Arafat backed by Lebanese militias.
About 350,000 Palestinian refugees, including thousands of armed radicals, still live in Lebanon, crammed into a dozen densely populated camps around the country.
Prime Minister Fuad Sanioraâ€™s office issued a statement saying the comments â€œshocked him as well as the Lebanese people and were issued by a group that still lives the illusions of the past.â€
Saniora described the call to kill Palestinians as â€˜racist,â€™ adding â€œPalestinian refugees living in Lebanon are brothers that Lebanon is committed to their cause.â€
Prosecutor Saad told The Associated Press he expected the three to be formally arrested on charges.
Under Lebanese law, a detainee can be held for up to four days, with a possible extension. Afterward, the detainee is either released, freed on bail or formally arrested on charges.