Lebanese protestors released as Amnesty slams arbitrary arrests
Published on: Saturday, January 18, 2020
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Soldiers stand guard at the entrance of a bank as protesters gather during an anti-government demonstration in Lebanon’s capital Beirut.
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s security forces have released most of the 100-plus anti-government protesters detained in the past 48 hours, lawyers told AFP, after two nights of violent demonstrations in Beirut.

Protesters gathered in Beirut again in the evening in front of the Central Bank and interior ministry, where several hundred demonstrators denounced police use of force and outgoing minister Raya al-Hassan.

A protest movement that has rocked Lebanon since October surged again, with a committee of lawyers defending demonstrators saying 101 people had been detained, including 56 on Wednesday, with five minors among them. 

The lawyers’ committee announced on Facebook that “all those arrested have been released with the exception of seven foreigners”.

The detained foreigners—six Syrians and an Egyptian—will be brought before authorities, the committee added.

Lebanese security forces announced 59 people were arrested on suspicion of vandalism and assault, when protesters angered by stringent informal capital controls attacked banks in central Beirut.

“Under popular pressure, the detained have been released two days after a hysterical crackdown,” Nizar Saghieh, who heads the Legal Agenda non-governmental organisation, wrote on Twitter.

Amnesty International denounced what it said were “arbitrary arrests”.

“What we have witnessed in the past couple of days is an alarming attack on freedom of assembly and expression,” said the watchdog’s Middle East research director Lynn Maalouf.

“Acts by a minority of protesters who vandalised banks or threw stones is never a justification for such excessive use of force and sweeping arrests by law enforcement.” 

Near parliament, hundreds of protesters massed to denounce Lebanon’s ruling class and delays in forming a new independent government.

An unprecedented nationwide movement of protests demanding an end to endemic corruption and the wholesale removal of Lebanon’s political elite broke out nearly three months ago.

With little change in sight, protesters also angered by a financial crisis they blame on Lebanon’s oligarchs and the central bank resumed their rallies with renewed determination after a holiday lull. –AFP


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