BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea Thursday criticized the judge who ruled that his party would not regain ownership of LBCI after she ruled to drop all charges against Pierre Daher, the station’s current chair.
“I was very surprised at the judicial verdict ... and the judge’s political views overwhelmed her decision,” Geagea told MTV hours after Judge Fatima Jouni issued the verdict, which included an order for the plaintiff to pay all legal fees from the trial. He announced on Twitter that he would appeal the decision, which he said was handed down for “political and not legal reasons.”
The decision stems from a lawsuit Geagea filed in 2007, two years after his release from an 11-year stint in solitary confinement, seeking to restore his party’s ownership of the channel and denying that he had sold it to Daher.
According to Thursday’s verdict, it had been proved that Daher established LBCI with Geagea’s “knowledge and approval.”
Although the court did not rule that there was a sale from Geagea, it said LBC - previously owned by the LF - was established using funds raised by the LF’s then-militia.
Geagea lamented that Jouni confirmed there was no sale to Daher, but still decided to grant him ownership. “If the LF established the television station and there was no sale, who [does it belong to]?
“This answer is clear but the judge has lost perspective,” he said, claiming that Jouni insisted on trying the LF as a militia.
A senior LF source told The Daily Star, “The judiciary took the case in another direction, which is regretful. It shows that the judiciary issued a politicized verdict, not a judicial, fair one.”
Jouni based her ruling on the premise that funds raised by militias during the Civil War (1975-90) should be considered property of the Lebanese state and people.
This means that had Daher not established LBCI, LBC would have been state property.
The LF owned the station under the name LBC until the party transferred ownership of the station in 1992 when it became apparent Geagea would face trial for alleged involvement in several assassinations. Geagea eventually received four life sentences, but was pardoned and released in 2005.
Geagea has claimed that the LF never relinquished ownership of LBC, testifying in June that the party had only registered the station in Daher’s name, just as the party’s different media outlets were registered under other names.
According to official investigations, before LBCI’s establishment in 1992, the LF militia’s finances had funded the company, a judicial source told The Daily Star after Thursday’s ruling.
Then, after LBCI’s establishment, it was funded by bank loans taken out by Daher, who had become the company’s primary shareholder.
Jouni found that LBCI had indeed come into existence through Daher’s loans and a license he had obtained. “Therefore, neither Samir Geagea nor the Lebanese Forces contributed with their money in the establishment of the company,” the judicial source said.
Geagea also disputed the use of the term “militia” to describe the LF, arguing that his and other groups active during the war had become political parties.
“The LF was never a militia, since the state collapsed after 1975. Therefore, it was a resistance [group] and it paid a lot for the state to return after 1990. #LBC_Forces,” he tweeted.
Geagea argued that many media companies belonged to “military organizations during the war and still do. Why should only the Lebanese Forces be denied this? ... Especially since it turned into a political party represented by 15 MPs in Parliament and four ministers in the Cabinet.”
In another tweet, Geagea said the LF had been “subject to a lot of unfair rulings and have not stopped. We will continue.”