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Lebanon: Dozens face arrest after PM calls for tough response to rioters

Protesters gesture and take selfies in front of a store which was attacked by them during a demonstration against dire economic conditions and depreciation in the value of the Lebanese pound against the dollar due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at the Riad al Solh Square in Beirut, Lebanon on June 12, 2020 [Hussam Shbaro - Anadolu Agency]
Protesters gesture and take selfies in front of a store which was attacked by them during a demonstration against dire economic conditions and depreciation in the value of the Lebanese pound against the dollar due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at the Riad al Solh Square in Beirut, Lebanon on June 12, 2020 [Hussam Shbaro - Anadolu Agency]

The Lebanese Army has arrested dozens of protesters for vandalism which took place during the weekend’s demonstrations after Prime Minister Hassan Diab called for a crackdown.

The National quoted a statement from the Lebanese military as saying, “the total number of arrests made by military intelligence between June 11 and 15 in different Lebanese regions is 36 people for acts of vandalism”.

The wave of arrests comes after Diab and President Michel Aoun termed the riots “organised acts of sabotage”.

In a statement yesterday from the Secretary General of the Higher Defence Council, Diab was quoted as saying, “these are not protests against hunger and the economic situation. This is a systemic sabotage”.

While the Associated Press reported during the meeting Diab saying: “What is happening in the country is not normal… thugs are roaming the streets and destroying the country and its institutions while the state is watching.”

Lebanon’s prime minister later called for perpetrators and vandals to be arrested.

READ: Lebanon PM holds emergency meeting as protests intensify

The events in question took place during three nights of violent protests over the weekend, during which demonstrators attacked banks and shops as well as throwing projectiles at military personnel.

Several branches of Lebanon’s Central Bank, which has been widely blamed for the country’s economic crisis, were set on fire, while motorcades of young men caused extensive damage in affluent Downtown Beirut on Friday night.

As a result, Minister of the Interior Mohammed Fahmi banned motorcycles in Downtown Beirut between 5pm and 6am from Monday, Al Arabiya reported.

Protests turned violent on Thursday after the Lebanese pound (also known as lira) reached an all-time low of 7,000 lira to $1. Officially, the exchange rate is pegged at 1,507.5 lira to $1.

Anti-government demonstrations started in October 2019 over the rapidly worsening economic crisis and deteriorating living standards. Protests experienced a lull in late February and disappeared in the first weeks of the coronavirus-related lockdown.

As Lebanon has started to re-open, however, protesters have returned to the streets in numbers not seen since the first days of the movement. Demonstrators are now demanding solutions after the global pandemic added to already rising levels of food insecurity and unemployment.

READ: Lebanon’s waste system damaging residents’ health, says HRW

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