BEIRUT: A third inmate at Lebanon’s largest jail died over the weekend from injuries sustained during a police raid to quell prisoner riots earlier this month, as Baalbek MPs slammed the government for ignoring the state of its derisory penal system.
A security source told The Daily Star that Nasser Darwish, 54, died from severe burns suffered on the night of April 6. A resident of Roumieh prison, northeast of Beirut, Darwish was incarcerated for drug-trafficking offenses and resisting arrest. The source said the prisoner had been asleep when mutiny broke out and sustained third-degree burns when his mattress caught fire.
Darwish was transferred to a specialist burns unit in Beirut’s Nawfat hospital but died Saturday.
In an extraordinary Sunday meeting, Baalbek MPs Hussein Moussawi, Ghazi Zeaiter, Kamel al-Rifai, Nawar al-Sahili, Ali al-Miqdad and Walid Sukarieh, as well as caretaker Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan discussed the state of Lebanese prisons, blaming previous administrations.
“A number of Lebanese civilians paid for their lives because of the events that happened [at Roumieh],” Sahili said following the meeting. “The bloc considers that previous governments did not give the issue of prisons any priority.”
The bloc proposed a number of reform measures to tackle overcrowding and injustice, rampant throughout Lebanon’s 23 incarceration facilities. It called for the formation of a specialized prison administrative unit, comprising of technocrats in contact with the Justice and Interior ministries, as well as speedy salves for overcrowding and amendments to criminal trials and punishments.
In addition, the bloc demanded the establishment of facilities for juvenile offenders and special complexes for female prisoners.
“The MPs of Baalbek hold those in the government responsible for the terrible prison situation in Lebanon,” Sahili said, also asking for “an accurate, in depth study on the issue of a general pardon in a way that will assure the balance of society’s right for security and prisoners’ right for mercy.”
Former Minister of State and Baath Party MP Fayez Shukr called Sunday for a general pardon to be issued to prisoners hailing from the Bekaa Valley.
“The government doesn’t listen and doesn’t see the people who are paying the price for Lebanon and for all Arabs,” Shukr said. “It is as if the state is saying to those who enter prisons, basically, that their fate is death.”