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Lebanon protesters demonstrate against activist detention

February 3, 2020 at 1:00 pm

Security forces intervene in protesters with pressurized water and tear gas during a protest against the country’s economic and political situation in Beirut, Lebanon on 19 January 2020. [Mahmut Geldi – Anadolu Agency]

Protesters have today gathered outside the Justice Palace for the start of a hearing for three Lebanese activists arrested on charges of inciting violence.

Activists Rabih El-Zein, Mohammad Srour and George Azzi are accused of involvement in two acts of vandalism during protests in early December. In a statement, the Lebanese Army said Intelligence services were able to identify the three after videos of riots circulated on social media.

El-Zein was previously arrested on 15 December, after being seen at the Justice Palace during an altercation between Mount Lebanon prosecutor Ghada Aoun, and MP Hadi Hbeish of the Future Movement, but was quickly released without a financial bail.

The activist from Northern Tripoli was arrested again on Wednesday, after he was detained and interrogated at the Justice Palace in Baabda, he has since been held in the notorious Roumiyeh prison.

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Srour and Azzi were arrested on 6 January, local news channel LCBI reported, while the Lebanese Army later confirmed the arrests in a statement on 10 January.

The charges of incitement relate to a Molotov attack on a Jounieh office of the Free Patriotic Movement, and the torching of an ATM in Zouk, belonging to Credit Libanais, on 5 and 9 December respectively.

An increasing number of protesters have been arrested since the Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet was formed on 21 January, amid a worsening economic crisis.

Some 59 protesters were arrested in the Beirut district of Hamra on 15 January, while more than 100 were detained after a weekend of violence days later.

Protests in Lebanon - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Protests in Lebanon – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

American journalist Nicholas Frakes was detained on 18 January after allegedly live streaming protests for Israeli news outlet Hareetz.

At least 450 individuals have been detained by the Lebanese Army or the Internal Security Forces since the beginning of protests in October.

Armenian Orthodox MP Paula Yacoubian said, “the amount of arrests happening are unacceptable”, in a video posted to Facebook on 1 Febuary.

Several detainees have alleged torture, while two women reported rape threats from security personal, Amnesty International reported.

Internal security forces removed metal barriers in Downtown Beirut in what has been called an attempt to end the protests but later returned them after protesters blocked the roads.

Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi said in a statement that removal of metal barriers intended to facilitate “the flow of traffic” but denied ordering the removal of the protest camp.

Yacoubian’s video, which denounced the efficacy of arresting protesters or removing roadblocks, added: “The people know that they are the strongest and that you are the ones scared of them.”

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