The trial of Bazzi, 72, by military tribunal started again in Beirut, Lebanon on November 25. The trial commenced on June 26, 2015 and was adjourned by the President of the Military Tribunal until last week.
At the opening session in June, Mahmoud Bazzi was charged with the murder of Privates Thomas Barrett and Derek Smallhorn,e and the attempted murder of Private John O’Mahony on 18 April 1980 while they were serving with UNIFIL.
The Military Tribunal heard evidence from Ex-Private John O’Mahony, from Co. Karry, who was seriously injured during the incident in which his colleagues lost their lives.
In an interview with RTE Primetime after his testimony, O’Mahony said “It was a bit emotional when I got up, and when I got into the courthouse it gave me great satisfaction to be able to stand up and point out the man that shot me in that year of 1980. It was very easy for me because the evidence was all embedded in my head. And it is embedded there for 35 years and thank God it never left me or I never forgot Bazzi.”
RTE Primetime first brought renewed interest to the case in 2000, when for the 20th anniversary of the killings they tracked Bazzi to Detroit and doorstep interviewed him about his role that day.
O’Mahony was cross examined by defense counsel. The case was then adjourned with the next hearing now scheduled to take place on April 20, 2016. The Tribunal has indicated that it will call further witnesses in the case against Bazzi, who has plead not guilty to all charges, at that time.
On April 18, 1980, Private Barrett and Private Smallhorne, two young Irish soldiers stationed with the United Nations Interim Forced in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL), were kidnapped, tortured and executed. A third Irish soldier, O’Mahony, shot five times in the legs and back, survived.
The killings were said to be an act of revenge for the death of a fighter with the South Lebanon Army (SLA) who had been killed two weeks earlier during a clash between SLA troops and UNIFIL soldiers from Ireland and the Netherlands.
The Irish soldiers were traveling with a convoy that was ambushed and held in a deserted schoolhouse. Shortly after Barrett, Smallhorne and O’Mahony were separated from the group, one of their captors opened fire. As O’Mahony recalled in a previous interview with IrishCentral, he was hit, but his comrades were able to flee the building. They were apprehended outside and driven away by one of the gunmen.
The rest of the convoy was released. The bodies of Barrett and Smallhorne were found later that day. They had visibly been tortured and then executed, one shot in the back of the head, the other in the front of his neck.
The following week, Mahmoud Bazzi, recognizable to the survivors of the ambush as the man who drove off with Barrett and Smallhorne, appeared on Lebanese TV taking credit for the killings and avenging the death of his brother.
Bazzi later fled to the US, where he lived for decades outside of Detroit, Michigan, and made a living driving an ice cream truck.
He was deported in July of 2014 after a long campaign by comrades of Barrett, Smallhorne and O’Mahony in Ireland, and extradited to Lebanon.
Irish Minister for defense Paschal Donohoe issued a statement after the trial continuation on the 25th.
“For the families, I had hoped that the case would conclude today. I can only imagine the emotional toll the extended process is having on them. However, from the very preliminary reports I have received, I am satisfied that the case is being dealt with in a very thorough manner by the Lebanese authorities and we must recognize that this is a really important development in securing accountability for the atrocious crime that was committed against Irish Peacekeepers in 1981,” he said.
Today’s hearing is another step in the campaign for justice on behalf of the family, friends and former colleagues of Privates Thomas Barrett and Derek Smallhorne who lost their lives tragically while on United Nations peacekeeping duty in Lebanon over 35 years ago. Our thoughts are with the families and friends at this difficult time.”
The Minister singled out Ex-Private John O’Mahony for his courage and dignity in providing evidence to the Tribunal. Ex-Private O’Mahony traveled from Ireland to give testimony against the accused. “I appreciate how difficult this was for John O’Mahony. I am very grateful for his commitment and time in what must have been a daunting task today bringing back memories of a horrific event”
Read the full back story here: Alleged killer of Irish UN soldiers is living in Detroit, selling ice cream