Canadian missionary deported from Lebanon

Canadian missionary Bruce Balfour is a free man — deported from Lebanon two days after a military court acquitted him of collaborating with Israel.

Balfour, 52,�from Calgary, was released from the Roumieh prison, east of Beirut, early Wednesday.�He boarded a British Airways plane to Los Angeles via London Wednesday morning.

Balfour told reporters at Heathrow that conditions in the prison he has been in since his arrest July 10, were cramped, hot, humid and filthy.

Balfour praised the federal government and said the Canadian Embassy in Beirut “helped me get through this a little quicker than otherwise.”

Now, he’s planning a campaign for prisoners’ rights in the Lebanese justice and prison system.

“We’re going to start a campaign to expose what’s going on in the prison system in the evil regime that’s controlling Lebanon right now,” Balfour said.

“It’s an unbelievably abominable situation. It’s going to take some time to explain it all.”

Military prosecutors in Lebanon had accused Balfour of visiting Israel and collaborating with the enemy — a charge punishable by 15 years in jail. Lebanon, which is technically at war with Israel, prohibits any visitor with a passport bearing an Israeli stamp.

In August, Lebanese Prosecutor General Adnan Addoum said information on Balfour suggested he had travelled between Lebanon and Israel in a way that aroused suspicion.

At a court appearance last week, Balfour insisted he was not a spy and that he served God and Jesus. He said he had visited Israel on a religious mission. Balfour is believed to have been directing an evangelical project to help replant the biblical cedar forests in Lebanon.

During a hearing Monday, a military tribunal found Balfour not guilty of collaborating with Israel. However, it did convict him of “inciting sectarian sentiments,” but said the seven weeks he had spent in detention were sufficient punishment, and ordered his release.

According to a Lebanese military court order, Balfour is barred from returning to Lebanon for five years.

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