The unsolved murder of a Lebanese journalist - Samir Kassir

June 2nd marks the anniversary of the assassination of prominent Lebanese journalist and university professor Samir Kassir. Four years after his killing, those responsible for his death still remain at large.
Carrying a picture of slain journalist Samir Kassir at his funeral in June 2005. R.R.

BEIRUT, June 2, 2009 (MENASSAT) - An influential democracy advocate and a vocal critic of the Syrian presence in Lebanon, Lebanese journalist Kassir was killed outside his home in East Beirut on June 2, 2005 by a bomb planted in his car. To this day, no one has been accountable for the murder.

Kassir was subject to constant threats from Lebanese and Syrian intelligence officers, and there is widespread belief that the perpetrators involved were from the Lebanese-Syrian security apparatus - or remnants of these services forced out of the country after popular support and a UN Security Council resolution saw the Syrians leave after the February 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri.

The Syrian government has denied involvement both assassinations.

As an editorial writer in the Lebanese daily An-Nahar, Kassir often denounced the pro-Syrian government in Lebanon in his popular weekly column.

He also made frequent appearances in various TV news programs as a political analyst. Kassir received a PHD in Modern History from the University of Sorbonne and served as a history professor at Beirut’s Saint Joseph University.

He was born to a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother and was a strong advocate for the Palestinian cause. Kassir kept a keen interest in democracy reform in Syria, maintaining close ties to many Syrian activists and intellectuals, including those involved in the pro-democracy movement Damascus Spring.

Kassir was one of the founding members of the Democratic Left Movement, which won a seat in the Lebanese parliamentary elections in 2005.

Six months prior to Kassir’s death, another outspoken critic of Syria from the same newspaper, An-Nahar Managing Director Gebran Tueni, was killed under similar circumstances.

In September 2005, the popular Lebanese TV show host May Chidiac lost an arm and a leg as a bomb placed under the driver’s seat of her car detonated.

No real headway has ever been made in the investigations into the murders of Kassir and Tueni and the assassination attempt on Chidiac.

A French investigation was launched into the assassination of Qassir since he held French citizenship in addition to his Lebanese nationality, but the results have yet to be released.

New-York based press freedom group the Committee to Protect Journalists called the unsolved murders of Kassir and Tueni a “blot” to freedom of the press in Lebanon and called on the special UN Tribunal set up to investigate the murder of Hariri and numerous other political and media figures to extend its investigations into the deaths of Kassir and Tueni.

 “The failure to bring to justice the killers of our colleagues Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueni is a blot on Lebanon’s press freedom record,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, program coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa at the CPJ.

“We call on the international tribunal to intensify its efforts to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice.”

Wissam Tarif, Director of the human rights organization Foundation for the Defense of Prisoners of Conscience and a close friend of Kassir told MENASSAT on the anniversary of his death, “Samir was a loss not only for Lebanon but also for Syria and the Palestinians.  Today is a sad day for his family, all his friends, and the people who believed in the man.”

Following Kassir’s assassination, his wife Giselle Khoury established the Samir Kassir Foundation along with a group of Kassir’s friends, students and colleagues. One of the goals of the association is to translate Kassir’s writings into different languages.