Lebanese Politician's Funeral Mixes Christianity, Communism

Leftist comrades in revolutionary berets marched along with Christian clergy in black robes Friday in a funeral procession for George Hawi (search), a former Communist boss and critic of Syria killed in a car bombing this week.

The unity shown by the anti-Syrian coalition and its supporters in the march behind Hawi's coffin temporarily set aside the political differences emerging among the victorious allies over how to take control of the government following parliamentary elections.

Hawi, 67, was killed when his car blew up on a Beirut street Tuesday. The anti-Damascus coalition had called for Friday's march and mass funeral, demanding an end to the close cooperation between the Lebanese and Syrian security agencies, which it claims were behind the assassinations of Hawi, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (search) on Feb. 14 and journalist Samir Kassir (search) on June 2.

Waving the red hammer-and-sickle flags or banners of the Lebanese Communist Party (search), thousands of people marched behind the hearse for several miles, from American University Hospital to downtown Beirut's St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, where the service was held.

Marchers carried pictures of Hawi and red banners bearing the portrait of his old comrade, legendary Communist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevera (search). Others wore Che's trademark black beret.

Women in sleeveless T-shirts walked with women with Islamic head scarves, some pushing strollers with babies. Others carried wreaths or flags. One red banner read: "Martyr in the struggle for a free Lebanon."

Revolutionary music blared from loudspeakers on a red car as Communist activists pumped their fists in the air and shouted, "Communist! Communist!" Church bells tolled in mourning while the procession snaked its way through Beirut streets to the church.

The crowd outside the church applauded as the coffin, draped in the red-and-white Lebanese flag with the distinct green cedar tree in the middle, was carried into the hall.

"We promise you that we will work to raise Lebanon on the hope of harmony," Bishop George Khodor said in his eulogy. "The murderers will perish in their hatred. They brought hell upon themselves."

Hawi's stepson, Rafi Madoyan, described Hawi as "the struggler for freedom and humanity in the great Arab prison."

Karim Mroue, Hawi's longtime comrade who last met with him Monday night, pledged: "We will continue the journey regardless of the sacrifices."

Hawi was buried in his hometown of Bteghrine, high in the mountains of central Lebanon.

Police released a report saying video retrieved from a security camera near the site of the Hawi's death showed two suspicious vehicles in the area just before the explosion. They released pictures of the two cars as well as a sketch of a person suspected of involvement.

The Lebanese capital is rife with fear that other anti-Syrian figures might be targeted for rejecting Syria's domination of Lebanon, which ended in April when the Syrian army withdrew from the nation after 29 years. U.S. officials said Thursday they were certain Syrian intelligence agents were still operating in Lebanon.

The anti-Syrian coalition that won a majority in staggered parliamentary elections that ended Sunday is pushing to wrest control of the government. But the agenda of the coalition of mainly Sunni Muslims, Christians and Druse (search) was divided by the realities of Lebanon's complex, sectarian-based politics.