Lebanon military prosecutor declares FSA a 'terrorist group'
Lebanon's military prosecutor has labelled the Free Syrian Army [FSA] a "terrorist organisation", likening the moderate rebel group to extremists such as the Islamic State group [IS].
Judge Fadi Akiki said on Monday that he regarded the FSA the same league as IS and Syria's al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, during the trial of a Syrian refugee accused of joining the FSA.
"We keep on hearing about this organisation, which is the same as IS and the Nusra Front. They are a group of terrorists wreaking havoc in Syria, fighting against the regime and destroying the state," Akiki said, referring to the FSA, according to Lebanon24.
"Wherever they go the place is destroyed. Any armed group that carries weapons is a terrorist group, whatever their name is."
Akiki made the comments at the trial of Fajr Farraj, a Syrian refugee who was arrested as he tried to leave Lebanon for Turkey, on his way to Germany.
The 26-year-old - who said he was a member of the FSA - has been accused of joining a terrorist organisation and fighting against the Lebanese army in the border town of Arsal, where IS and al-Nusra militants have been present.
Akiki said that there was no international agreement legitimising the FSA, after Farraj's defence attorney argued that the rebel group was not classified as a terrorist organisation by the UN.
IS and other militants have attempted a number of incursions into Lebanon, with IS and Nusra gunmen briefly seizing Arsal in August 2014.
They were later pushed out by the Lebanese army, but at least 20 Lebanese troops were taken hostage during ensuing battles. Although the majority were released, some were executed.
In 2012, members of the FSA attacked a border post near Arsal before they were chased out by the Lebanese military.
Lebanon has accepted more than 1 million Syrian refugees, while the country's army and security forces have deployed along its frontier with Syria.
Meanwhile, Lebanese Shia movement Hizballah remain a key to the Syrian regime's military machine, with thousands of its militants believed to be fighting in Aleppo and elsewhere.
This week, the group showed off its military hardware - including US-made armoured vehicles - in Syria during a parade, with some analysts believing that the machines must have come direcetly from the Lebanese army.