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Last Updated: Monday, 18 July, 2005, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Amnesty for Lebanese ex-warlord
Samir Geagea posters
Supporters say Geagea's treatment has been unfair
Lebanon's parliament has approved an amnesty for Christian militia leader Samir Geagea, who is currently serving a life sentence.

He is the only Lebanese warlord to be punished for crimes during the long civil war which ended in 1990.

A campaign for his release has gathered strength since the assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri, which unleashed a wave of anti-Syrian feeling.

Geagea led the Lebanese Forces militia which formed an alliance with Israel.

The LF successor's are now in a coalition with the Future Movement led by Hariri's son and political heir Saad, which holds a majority in Lebanon's newly elected parliament.

About 100 MPs voted for Geagea's release in the first legislative session since the elections ended last month.

The 52-year-old is expected to be freed early next week after the amnesty is signed by President Emile Lahoud and published in the official gazette.

Flag waving

Supporters of the LF have been celebrating the parliamentary vote, firing volleys of gunfire in Geagea's former stronghold, the town of Besharre in northern Lebanon.

Others waved flags outside parliament in the capital and the northern and eastern suburbs where most Christians live.

Inside parliament another amnesty bill was approved, in the case of a number of suspected Muslim militants being tried for endangering state security.

Geagea is held in solitary confinement in cell below the defence ministry building in Beirut.

He was found guilty in 1994 of ordering four political assassinations, included the killing of PM Rashid Karami in 1987 and the unsuccessful attempt on the life of Defence Minister Michel Murr in 1991.

He denied all the charges. He was given four death sentences in, each of which were commuted to life in prison with hard labour.


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