A Lebanese political activist was charged with collaborating with Israel and referred to a military prosecutor yesterday after she was detained by security forces last week, Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) reports.
Kinda Al-Khatib, 23, stands accused of dealing with Israeli spies and those working for Israel’s interests as well as entering the occupied Palestinian territories.
Lebanon and Israel are officially in a state of war and each state bans its citizens from visiting the other. Communicating with someone based in Israel is also considered illegal in Lebanon.
Shortly before the charges were reported yesterday, crowds of protesters gathered in Beirut demanding her release.
The Lebanese activist, who is known for criticising the Shia organisation Hezbollah, was arrested in her home in northern Lebanon on Thursday alongside her brother Bandar, who was released after two days due to a lack of evidence.
In the wake of Al-Khatib’s arrest, supporters, including family members, have speculated she was targeted because of her activism on social media, particularly Twitter where she has nearly 30,000 followers.
A video of the detained activist’s sister circulated on -ocial media showing her claiming the 23-year-old’s Twitter account had been hacked to frame Al Khatib as a spy, Al Arabiya reported.
Meanwhile, members of her family told the National they believed the 23-year-old was arrested because of her criticism of Hezbollah and the party’s ally, President Michel Aoun.
One sister was quoted as saying: “In Lebanon, there is oppression against freedom and freedom of expression… she was threatened on Twitter before her arrest. People told her to shut up.”
Activists have been quick to draw parallels between Al-Khatib’s case and Ziad Itani, who was arrested in 2017 on charges of collaboration with Israel. After four months in prisons, Itani was found to be innocent and released.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) however subsequently published a report in 2018 which detailed allegations that Itani was tortured during detention and interrogation.
HRW researcher for Lebanon Aya Majzoub tweeted the comparison between Itani and Al-Khatib’s cases, saying: “Kinda al-Khatib’s arrest comes in wake of spate of recent prosecutions targeting individuals peacefully voicing their criticism of the government on social media.”