Ex-soldier is key witness in Beirut murder trial
An Irish soldier who survived a notorious attack at the height of Lebanon's civil war courageously gave evidence at a Beirut military tribunal trying an ex-militia man for the cold-blooded murder of two of his UN colleagues.
Defence Minister Simon Coveney paid tribute to retired Private John O'Mahony, who offered personal evidence at the tribunal yesterday which is trying Mahmoud Bazzi (71) for the murders of Privates Thomas Barrett and Derek Smallhorne in April 1980.
Mr Bazzi, who was deported from the United States to Lebanon last January, is also accused of the attempted murder of Private O'Mahony.
The Irish soldiers were stationed in Lebanon as part of the Unifil force when they were targeted by the South Lebanese Army (SLA) of which Mr Bazzi was allegedly a commander.
Privates Barrett and Smallhorne both died and Private O'Mahony was left seriously injured in the attack.
It is alleged that the Irish soldiers were killed in cold-blood by the SLA militia unit after they were stripped of their weapons.
Mr Coveney paid tribute to retired Private O'Mahony's courage in offering personal evidence to the Beirut tribunal - the only legal avenue where Mr Bazzi could now be prosecuted.
After hearing evidence from retired Private O'Mahony and other related matters, the military tribunal adjourned the case until April 20 next year.
The tribunal chairman explained that the lengthy adjournment was for the sole purpose of allowing other key witnesses to offer evidence.
"For the families, I had hoped that the case would conclude today," said Mr Coveney.
"I can only imagine the emotional toll the extended process is having on them.
"However, from the very preliminary reports I have received, I am satisfied that the case is being dealt with in a very thorough manner by the Lebanese authorities and we must recognise that this is a really important development in securing accountability for the atrocious crime that was committed against Irish peacekeepers.
"I appreciate how difficult this was for John O'Mahony. I am very grateful for his commitment and time in what must have been a daunting task today bringing back memories of a horrific event," he added.
Mr Bazzi's trial opened in Beirut on June 26 after he was finally deported from the US for immigration offences.