Lebanon frees ex-general jailed on Israel spy charges

AFP , Tuesday 3 Apr 2012

Fayez Karam is released prior to sentence expiry due to changes in Lebanese legislation

A Lebanese ex-general convicted of leaking information to Israel was released from prison on Tuesday, his lawyer Rashad Salame told AFP.

Fayez Karam, a high-profile member of a Christian party allied with the militant Shia group Hezbollah, was arrested in August 2010 and sentenced to two years in prison for leaking information to Israel.

He received a hero's welcome in his hometown of Zgharta in northern Lebanon, where he was greeted with fireworks and residents showering him with rice.

Karam was released before the term of his sentence expired thanks to a change in Lebanese legislation that now reduces the prison year from 12 months to nine months.

Karam, who ran for parliament in 2009, is the only political figure to have been convicted in Lebanon as part of a probe into Israeli spy networks.

The 64-year-old had headed the Lebanese army's anti-terrorism and counter-espionage unit during the 1980s and was close to Christian leader Michel Aoun, who was army chief toward the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Aoun, who was staunchly anti-Syrian during the civil war, entered into a controversial alliance with the Iran and Syria-backed Hezbollah in 2006, a year after returning to Lebanon from exile in France.

More than 100 people have been arrested on suspicion of spying for the Israeli secret service Mossad since April 2009, including members of the security forces and telecom employees.

Several have since been sentenced to death, including one found guilty of aiding Israel during its 2006 war with Hezbollah.

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