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Lebanon: Security forces arrest 11 over riots, vandalism

June 22, 2020 at 2:19 pm

The Information Division arrested 11 people suspected of rioting, sabotaging and destroying commercial stores in downtown Beirut [@LebISF/Twitter]

Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF) have arrested 11 people thought to have taken part in rioting and vandalism in Downtown Beirut on 11 and 12 June, the organisation announced yesterday.

In a statement, the ISF said: “11 people involved in these actions [vandalism and rioting] were arrested and are currently being investigated.”

Adding, “the Information Division of the Internal Security Forces identified a number of suspects based on photos and videos shown by various media outlets which clearly show people that carried out acts of vandalism on public and private property.”

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The 11 suspects were arrested on Friday and Saturday and are now being questioned, the ISF said.

In a tweet yesterday, the ISF released stills of protesters damaging shop fronts in Downtown Beirut, with suspects circled in red and blue.

The stills were taken from footage shot by camera crews covering the demonstrations, according to the Daily Star.

The report added Lebanese security services had approached media outlets requesting access to footage and videos from the demonstrations which could lead to arrests. It remains unclear if any news outlets provided footage to Lebanese intelligence services.

The vandalism took place during two nights of crowded protests, some of which descended into riots, over the rapid depreciation of the Lebanese pound (also known as the lira), which reached an all-time high of 7,000 lira to $1 on 11 June.

Officially, the Lebanese pound is pegged at 1,507.5 to $1, but has hovered around 4,500 to the dollar on the black market since anti-government protests began in October 2019.

Two nights of vandalism and riots, during which several branches of the Central Bank were torched, sparked a crackdown on dissidents by security forces and officials.

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Speaking in a televised address on 13 June, Prime Minister Hassan Diab called for a tough response to the riots, which he termed “organised acts of sabotage”, 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.”

Meanwhile, according to a report by the National, between 11 and 15 June, the Lebanese Army arrested 36 people across the country for acts of vandalism.

Protests in Lebanon have reignited since the country started easing coronavirus lockdown measures in early June. Demonstrators are now demanding solutions after the global pandemic added to already rising levels of food insecurity and unemployment.