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'The Innocent Scapegoat Prays at the Church He allegedly Blew Up'

July 21, 2005/Naharnet

'I am the scapegoat that spent 11 years and three months in a prison grave,' said Girgis Khoury upon his release from the Defense Ministry prison in Yarze Thursday. My 3-floor underground prison cell throughout my incarceration was a grave, not only a dungeon without sunshine or fresh air.'

Khoury, 37, walked out of prison a free man at sundown Thursday at the orders of State Prosecutor Saeed Mirza. Girgis was held on charge of blowing up the Maronite church of Notre Dame de la Deliverance on February 27, 1994, in which 10 worshippers were killed.

The first thing he did was to go to the church at suburban Zouk Mekayel to pray. 'I told the Virgin Mary that Girgis Khoury is innocent. Girgis Khoury can not possibly blow up a church or even think of harming any church,' he said.

Khoury, an activist of Samir Geagea's Lebanese Forces, then was driven from Zouk Mekayel to his home in Dbayeh. His father and sister leaped to hug him and kiss him with a Geagea portrait hanging at the background. Tumultuous LF well-wishers ringed the house.

"Is it true that your prison cell was a grave with lights," one reporter asked. "In fact it was worse because I was breathing in it. I would have been much better off dead," Khoury said.