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Lebanese Ex-Warlord Sentenced in Rival's Slaying : Mideast: Christian is the first militia chief convicted of civil war crimes. Many received amnesty. Eleven associates are also sentenced.

June 25, 1995| From Times Wire Services

BEIRUT — Lebanon's highest court sentenced former Christian warlord Samir Geagea and 11 members of his militia to death Saturday for the 1990 murder of political rival Dani Chamoun and his family.

But the five-judge Judicial Council commuted the sentences to life imprisonment with hard labor.

Geagea, 43, became the only militia chief convicted of crimes committed during the 1975-1990 civil war that killed 150,000 people.

Other warlords were effectively pardoned, and some have assumed senior government positions.

Most civil war crimes were covered by a 1991 general amnesty.

Geagea has said he is innocent and that he was put on trial to silence him from denouncing the presence of the Syrian army in Lebanon and Syria's influence on Beirut.

Some Christians said the eight-month trial was aimed at undercutting their shrinking clout in Lebanon's half-Christian, half-Muslim government.

Chamoun, his wife, Ingrid, and their young sons, Julian and Tarek, were shot dead in their apartment by gunmen dressed in Lebanese army uniforms Oct. 21, 1990.

The court said Geagea had Chamoun killed because he saw him an obstacle to sole postwar leadership of Lebanon's Christians.

Geagea was acquitted of responsibility for the death of Ingrid Chamoun and the children, but three men tried in absentia were convicted of those deaths.

The sentence cannot be appealed, but the president can alter the ruling.

Geagea also faces murder charges in a Feb. 27, 1994, church bombing that killed 11 worshipers and injured 60.

He has said he is innocent in that case.

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