Former ice-cream seller accused of murdering Irish troops is jailed on other charge
A former ice-cream seller, who is on trial for the murder of two Irish peacekeeping troops in south Lebanon 38 years ago, has been sentenced to almost four years imprisonment on a separate charge of collaborating with Israel.
Mahmoud Bazzi (74) is alleged to have been a former senior member of the South Lebanon Army (SLA), which was founded by a renegade major, Saad Haddad, but operated under the control of the Israelis.
Bazzi was deported back to Lebanon from the US over three years ago and is currently being tried by a military tribunal in Beirut on charges of murdering Privates Thomas Barrett, from Cork, and Derek Smallhorne, from Dublin, and the attempted murder of Private John O'Mahony, on April 18, 1980.
The murder case is due to come for hearing again next month, after being adjourned on April 24 when the judge requested that the previous witnesses be called again for questioning about Bazzi's membership of the SLA. It has now emerged that the military tribunal met recently in closed session and adjudicated separately on a charge of collaboration with Israel.
Bazzi was sentenced to 3.75 years hard labour, dating back to the time of his arrest.
He will remain in custody, pending the outcome of the murder case.
The Department of Defence was not officially informed about the sentencing as the collaboration charge was regarded by the Lebanese authorities as an internal matter.
However, the outcome was published in a Beirut newspaper and after officials confirmed the sentence, they contacted the Mr Barrett and Mr Smallhorne families, who had expressed concerns about the fate of the murder hearing.
Officials were advised by the Lebanese that the sentencing would not affect the murder trial.
In a letter to the families, the department said it was unfortunate they had not received information about the sentencing at the time of the verdict and regretted any anxiety caused as a result.
The incident in which the two peacekeepers were abducted, tortured and murdered and Pte O'Mahony injured, took place less than two weeks after a clash between UN troops and the SLA in which Massoud Bazzi, a brother of Mahmoud Bazzi, was killed. Mahmoud Bazzi later appeared on Lebanese TV claiming he was responsible for the shootings to avenge the death of his brother. He later retracted his statement, alleging he had been forced to issue it by his commander.