Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A new (sort of) twist in Saqrgate

[Originally posted at NOW]

In a new development that isn’t quite as interesting as it might at first sound, former General Security chief Jamil as-Sayyid has given Lebanon’s general prosecutor a CD purporting to contain four audio recordings of phone calls between MP Oqab Saqr and an “armed group in Syria”.

Saqr, you will recall, was in December the subject of a high-profile ‘exposé’ by OTV and Al Akhbar, who published calls between him and the Free Syrian Army in which he appeared to be negotiating the provision of arms at the behest of former PM Saad Hariri. In a somewhat grandiose press conference, Saqr retorted that the media outlets had tampered with the tapes, revealing what he said were the complete recordings, showing he had in fact been negotiating humanitarian aid.

OTV replied that he in turn had doctored the evidence, by which point few people knew who to believe – though in an oddly underreported development, an independent British company called Audio Forensic Services commissioned by al-Jadeed TV (not exactly known for pro-Hariri leanings) to investigate the tapes played by Saqr at his Istanbul press conference found them to be authentic, i.e., not edited. Saqr and Hariri subsequently launched a lawsuit against OTV and Al Akhbar for defamation and inciting sectarianism.

That was as much as was known yesterday. Do Sayyid’s new recordings change anything? Not really. Even assuming they’re genuine, they implicate Saqr only in negotiations to transfer funds and communication equipment to the rebels – not weapons. And that Sayyid freely admits their source is Syrian state television does not exactly recommend their credibility. Whether or not Saqr is in fact arming the rebels (and whether or not it would be such a bad thing if he were), as far as hard evidence is concerned, there remains considerable room for reasonable doubt.

Previous posts on this topic: ‘The Saqrpunch’

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