MP's funeral turns to rally against Syria
Retrieved from Scotsman.com on December 14, 2005
TENS of thousands of flag- waving Lebanese - Christian and Muslim - poured on to the streets of Beirut yesterday to bid farewell to an anti-Syrian critic who was killed this week in a car bombing.
A general strike called in mourning for Gibran Tueni - a relentless campaigner against Syria who also was a member of parliament and leading newspaper editor - was widely followed by banks, businesses and schools, all of which closed their doors.
Hundreds of Lebanese troops and police took up position in a central square where, on 14 March, about a million people heard Mr Tueni call for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.
Mourners marched behind his coffin, some shouting: "Syria out!"
Mr Tueni was killed by a car bomb on Monday as he was being driven to work through an industrial suburb of Beirut.
He was the fourth anti-Syria figure to be killed since a series of bombings began in February with the assassination of Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's prime minister.
A previously unknown group has claimed responsibility for the blast that killed Mr Tueni and two bodyguards and wounded 30 other people.
But Mr Tueni's colleagues and political allies have blamed Syria, which has denied involvement.
The protest and funeral was by far the largest gathering since the massive demonstration in March to demand that Syria give up its hold on Lebanon.
Police sources, who would not speak on the record because of the political sensitivity of the protests, put the crowd estimate at more than 100,000.
But some other witnesses and observers said they thought it could be as high as 200,000.
Opponents of Syrian influence in Lebanon are counting on public anger over Mr Tueni's assassination to allow them to flex their muscles and close ranks after what they view as a Syrian threat to kill their leaders one by one.
The groups have been buffeted in recent months by internal political divisions.
Many on the streets shouted slogans against Syria, its president, Bashar Assad, and his Lebanese ally, the president, Emile Lahoud.
Mr Lahoud has rejected the anti-Syrian majority's calls for him to step down after Syria withdrew its army from Lebanon in April.
"It is shameful not to take part," said Imad Abu Shaqra, 44, who said he did not belong to any political group.
"To lose a symbol like Gibran is a lot, not only for us but for future generations ... We are not ready to continue to be the victims," he added.
Anti-Syrian sentiment was running high in the crowd, as protesters' cries mingled with patriotic music, including the national anthem.