Lebanese army urges singer-turned-militant to surrender

AP News
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Posted: Mar 12, 2015 12:11 PM
Lebanese army urges singer-turned-militant to surrender

BEIRUT (AP) — The Lebanese army called on a pop star accused of becoming a militant fighter to turn himself in, denying rumors Thursday that a "deal" is underway in his case.

Fadel Shaker must surrender to authorities and face justice in order "for the suitable verdict to be issued against him," the army said in a statement.

Shaker has been on the run since deadly street battles between Sunni militants and the Lebanese army in June 2013 in the coastal city of Sidon — his hometown and the place where he allegedly got involved with Sunni militants. He faces charges of committing crimes against the military and prosecutors have demanded the death penalty.

In a 2013 video, a bearded Shaker called his enemies pigs and dogs and taunted the military. "We have two rotting corpses that we snatched from you yesterday," he said in the recording, apparently referring to two slain soldiers.

In an interview broadcast Sunday, in which he was clean-shaven, Shaker denied taking part in deadly clashes with the military and said he wants to return to normal life. The local LBC TV said the interview was filmed at the Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon.

The camp is renowned for its lawlessness and for harboring fugitives.

Shaker became famous throughout the Arab world in 2002 with his smash hit, "The Absent One." Almost 10 years later, he fell under the influence of Sunni cleric Ahmad al-Assir and shocked fans by turning up next to the hard-line cleric at rallies and later saying that he was giving up singing to become closer to God.

The 2013 shootout between followers of al-Assir and the Lebanese army killed at least 18 soldiers and deepened sectarian tensions in Lebanon between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, who support opposing sides in the civil war in neighboring Syria.

"There will be no deal over the blood of the army's martyrs and civilians under any circumstances," the army statement said. "Justice will reveal the truth and guarantee everyone's rights."