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Young Lebanese Forces supporters rally on a bus near Jounieh, Lebanon prior to national elections folowing the protests that forced the Syrian Army out of Lebanon. The white Cedar Tree flag is one of the party's emblems.....Supporters camped around Lebanon's Statue of Liberty and called for the release of their leader Dr. Samir Geagea who was eventually released in part because of these protests. ....Following the assassination of Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafic Hariri on February 14, up to one million Lebanese rallied around the Statue of Liberty in the heart of Beirut. In an unprecedented display of unity, they called for justice, democracy, and the immediate retreat of Syrian troops, which had effectively ruled Lebanon since 1991. Many held Syria responsible for the killing of Hariri.....Under pressure of the Lebanese street and the international community, Syria pulled out of Lebanon by the end of April. However, while most demonstrators went home to prepare for the first free elections since 1972, one group remained camped under the statue at Martyrs Square: the Lebanese Forces (LF).....Founded in 1976, the LF is a former militia turned political party. Its aim is the preservation of Christian culture in Lebanon. The party emblem is a fragmented cross, which many supporters proudly wear on their chest. The cross also adorns the LF?s Crusaderlike flag. ....Members of the LF remained camped at the Statue of Liberty, as to them the liberation of Lebanon was not complete without the release of their leader Samir Geagea. Known as ?the doctor,? the former warlord spent 11 years in solitary confinement after being falsely accused of the 1994 bomb attack on a church, which killed ten people and wounded dozens of others. The gruesome attack during morning mass sheds a whole different light on the string of bomb attacks that rocked Lebanon following the Syrian retreat in April of 2005.
- © 2006 Matthew Arnold Photography
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