A former Lebanese pop star who allegedly became an Islamist militant is planning to surrender himself to authorities after being a fugitive for nearly two years. Fadel Shaker, who is wanted in connection to terrorism charges related to the killing of army officers in the Lebanese city of Sidon in 2013, intends to hand himself over to the Lebanese judiciary and dispute the charges against him, a lawyer for the former singer told Lebanon’s Daily Star on Monday.
“He believes that he is innocent, and I have a feeling that he is innocent as well,” said Shaker’s lawyer May al-Khansa, adding that she still needed to review his files before a final decision was made about his surrender. “Technically, it’s still my first day representing him.”
The singer, who had been one of the Arab world’s most famous pop stars until his alleged abrupt turn toward jihadism in 2013, said in a rare interview this week that he wanted to go back to a “normal life” after two years on the run from authorities, according to Al Arabiya. The interview was Shaker’s first since the 2013 Sidon battle between Lebanese security forces and his militia that left more than 50 people dead, including 17 soldiers. Following the clashes, a judge requested that Shaker face the death penalty.
Shaker has been accused of participating in the battle along with extremist Sunni preacher Ahmed al-Assir, who is known for stirring up sectarian tensions in Lebanon with his condemnation of Hezbollah and its support for President Bashar Assad in neighboring Syria. The inflammatory cleric gained international attention after Shaker began attending his rallies and eventually renounced his pop singer lifestyle.
Shaker has been charged with belonging to a terrorist group, attempting and participating in attacks against the military, carrying out terrorist operations, inciting sectarianism, possessing unlicensed weapons and issuing statements deemed harmful to civil peace, according to the Daily Star.
His lawyer claimed that only the charges related to negative remarks against the military have merit, while the rest are false. “He did issue negative statements, but no blood was spilled,” Khansa said to the Daily Star. “He told me that he will be willing to assume responsibility for his statements when politicians and other notable figures who have taken similar stances are prosecuted for their crime.”