Jerusalem (ICEJ News - August 21, 2003) -- The trial of Bruce Balfour, a Canadian missionary seeking to plant cedar trees in Lebanon, began Wednesday in a military tribunal. He is charged with spying for Israel.
“My client is innocent,” said George Assaf, Balfour’s lawyer. “They are not serious charges.”
Balfour was arrested July 10 upon his arrival at Beirut International Airport after airport officials noticed that Balfour’s passport had recently been stamped in Israel. Lebanese law prevents anyone who has visited Israel from entering the country.
Reynald Doiron, a spokesman for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, expressed concern that Lebanese authorities held Balfour for three weeks without any formal charges and suggests Lebanon violated international protocol by failing to notify Canada of Balfour’s detention.
According to some reports, if Balfour is found guilty, retribution ranges from paying a fine to facing execution.
In an article published in the Calgary Herald earlier this year, Balfour said he was planning to return to Lebanon to assist in the replanting of the biblical Cedars of Lebanon, a grove of trees that have virtually disappeared from the country’s high central mountain range.
"These were the trees cut for the Temple of Jerusalem and House of Solomon," he observed. "God refers to Himself as a Cedar of Lebanon. But now these mountains are mostly barren slopes."
Calling it the Cedars of Lebanon Reforestation Project, Balfour said he dreams of seeing the denuded slopes where the grove once stood reforested in what he believes to be a fulfillment of prophecy.
In a related development, another Canadian has been indicted in absentia by Lebanon on charges of espionage. Grant Livingston, the Middle East director for the Calgary-based Maranatha Evangelistic Association, had been indicted as a spy for Israel who has collaborated with Balfour in more than 20 years of espionage, a Lebanese newspaper reported.