BEIRUT: The family of Sheikh Assem al-Arifi, who is being held on charges of involvement in clashes between the Army and followers of controversial Salafi Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, staged a sit-in Friday to protest against his alleged beating at the hands of prison guards.
The protesters gathered outside Zaatari Mosque in Sidon after the Friday sermon, brandishing posters of Arifi depicting what they claimed were traces of his physical harassment at the prison in Aley, east of Beirut.
Sheikh Khaled al-Arifi, a relative of the prisoner and member of the Committee of Muslim Scholars, called for a thorough investigation to identify and punish the culprits and demanded authorities speed up the trial of all detainees in relation to the clashes in Abra, near Sidon.
“Yesterday, our beloved sheikh was aggressed, as much as the Lebanese law which forbids physical harassment in prisons,” Arifi told the protesting crowd.
He said the prisoner was attacked by several security members while he was handcuffed, incapable of defending himself.
“We request political, security and judicial authorities to apply the Lebanese law and prosecute those who carried out this blatant aggression that inflamed the people’s feelings and provoked the family,” Arifi said.
“In the name of the people and Muslim Scholars, we demand a transparent and thorough investigation to identify who carried out the attack and why, and to punish the perpetrators,” Arifi added.
Armed followers of Salafi Sheikh Ahmed al-Assir, an outspoken opponent of Hezbollah, battled with the Army for a few days in Abra in June last year. The fighting ended with the routing of the gunmen. Tens of militants were rounded up, but Assir managed to escape. He is still at large.