Lebanon's minister urges probe into Syrian deaths in custody

Hassan Abdallah  Reuters
Firefighters put out fire at a camp for Syrian refugees near the town of Qab Elias in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley

Hassan Abdallah Reuters Firefighters put out fire at a camp for Syrian refugees near the town of Qab Elias in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley

English edition of Asharq Al-Awsat - the world's premier pan-Arab daily.

Choucair said that the government's decision to ask the army to investigate the death of detainees is to maintain transparency.

Lebanese Interior Minister Nuhad Al-Mashnouk said in an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya's sister channel Al Hadath that he was "keen on the dignity and security of Syrian refugees", stressing that the Lebanese army is not targeting Syrian refugees.

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The army said on Tuesday four Syrian men arrested last week during a raid on a refugee camp had died in detention from chronic illnesses aggravated by weather conditions. During the raids, soldiers arrested more than 300 people.

The announcement came following photos published on Wednesday showing dozens of Syrian refugees, stripped to the waist and handcuffed, while lying on the ground and covered with stones. The town and the surrounding area was the scene of a major cross-border attack in 2014, when a number of Lebanese soldiers were abducted.

According to photos that were seen by the AP, two of the bodies showed heavy bruising on the face and abdomen - which human rights lawyer Nabil Halabi said was consistent with beatings. "A formal, transparent, and independent investigation must be launched and in case of wrongdoing those responsible for the deaths should be held accountable".

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It did not offer evidence to back up its claim and called for an independent investigation.

A fire killed a girl at a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley overnight, a medical source said, the second lethal fire in a Syrian refugee camp in that area within three days.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri also raised the issue during Wednesday's cabinet session, noting that the army's announcement that four detainees had died due to chronic health problems has "raised question marks" in Lebanon and overseas, al-Hayat pan-Arab newspaper reported.

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