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Lebanon: Maronite archbishop detained on return from Israel

Maronite Archbishop of Haifa and the Holy Land, Moussa El-Hage 14 May 2014 [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]
Maronite Archbishop of Haifa and the Holy Land, Moussa El-Hage, 14 May 2014 [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]

The Maronite Archbishop of Haifa and the Holy Land, Moussa El-Hage, was detained upon his return to Lebanon from Israel recently, Anadolu has reported. His detention was condemned by Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi yesterday.

"The detention of Patriarch Al-Hage is an offence to the Maronite Church because the laws prevent the prosecution of bishops and priests without permission of the Patriarch," said Al-Rahi. "The aggression against the bishop is a violation of the sovereignty of the church, which has been turned into a legal issue by a certain political group."

According to the Jerusalem Post, the archbishop travels between Lebanon and Israel regularly under special arrangements made for Christian clergy. However, this is the first time that he has been detained while doing so.

Lebanese media reported that Archbishop El-Hage was carrying money from the occupation state. According to security officials in Lebanon, he was not arrested, but was subject to normal inspections at the border that everyone has to go through, including UN officials.

Justice Fadi Akiki, who is in charge of the case, was reported as saying that the archbishop was carrying about $460,000. He claimed that the money came from "collaborators" in Israel, with which Lebanon has no diplomatic relations.

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"I respect the church, but there is a law that is the boycott of Israel and it is my duty as a judge to implement it," said Akiki. He insisted that the money carried by the archbishop is subject to Lebanese law concerning everything that enters Lebanon from Israel.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun received El-Hage in Beirut and heard what happened to him at the border.

The Head of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, described the transfer of the money as, "Israeli exploitation of religious people for political reasons."

Lebanese citizens are banned from travelling to Israel apart from clergymen who serve their followers in both countries.

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