BEIRUT — Eight suspected members of the Islamic State group handed over to Lebanon recently are being questioned under the supervision of judicial authorities and they will stand trial in their home country, Justice Minister Salim Jreissati said Saturday.
Jreissati's comments came a day after Human Rights Watch said the United States should ensure no foreign IS suspects held by local allies in Syria are transferred to a country where they are at risk of torture or unfair trials.
Thousands of men from around the world traveled to Iraq and Syria to join IS after its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in mid-2014. Since its rise — during which the extremists committed atrocities — IS has been mostly defeated in Iraq and Syria, where it still controls small pockets.
The eight were captured in Syria by the U.S.-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and interrogated by U.S. officials before Washington decided to hand them over to Lebanon's military intelligence, according to Lebanon's daily Al-Akhbar. It said the eight were among 13 Lebanese citizens captured by SDF in Syria adding that the five still in custody in Syria include a senior IS official.
The Lebanese army said in a statement earlier this week that eight Lebanese citizens who fought for IS in Iraq and Syria were handed over to Lebanon "by friendly security agencies in the framework of the international coalition to fight terrorism." It added that they were handed later by the army to judicial authorities.
Al-Akhbar said that an American aircraft landed at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport more than a month ago and handed over the detainees to the Lebanese military who took them to a military compound near Beirut where they were interrogated. The paper said that it was days after the detainees arrived in Beirut that the army brought in judicial authorities to supervise the questing.
"The U.S. should create a transparent process with strong safeguards to ensure that no ISIS suspect is transferred to a country where they are at risk of torture or an unfair trial," said Nadim Houry, terrorism and counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch using a term to refer to IS. "Transferring detainees in total secrecy without basic legal protections is a recipe for abuse."
Jreissati told local LBC TV that the questioning of the eight by military investigators is supervised by Military Prosecutor Peter Germanos.
"Their trial in Lebanon is a guarantee for them," said Jreissati, hinting that they will be tried fairly.