BEIRUT: A preliminary investigation refuted allegations maintained by Sunni and Shiite prisoners in three Lebanese jails that they were being threatened of violence while in prison.
"Threats inside prisons are a mere play,” head of the Gendarmerie Brig. Gen. Elias Saade told a news conference Monday.
Videos purportedly made by prisoners and recently published on Youtube showed inmates threatening fellow prisoners to torture them against the backdrop of sectarian fighting linked to the Syrian crisis in the northern city of Tripoli.
The latest video shows at least six prisoners from a Baalbek jail clad in black and wearing knit black face masks facing two inmates, kneeling on the floor with their shirts pulled all the way up to their collar.
The disguised men, who said they belonged to the Shiite sect, could be heard threatening fellow Sunnis of aggression if the Alawites in Lebanon continue to be targeted.
Sunni inmates at Lebanon’s biggest Roumieh prison published a similar video in response, threatening fellow Shiites to take violent action if Sunni prisoners are harmed.
The tit-for-tat threats began after a video published on Youtube showed what was believed to be prisoners at Qibbeh jail in Tripoli threatening fellow Shiites of violence if the Sunni community continued to be targeted by Shiites.
In a December report, the Human Rights Watch said “sectarian tensions between the Alawite Jabal Mohsen neighborhood and surrounding Sunni neighborhoods have led to increasing targeted attacks against Alawites in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.”
HRW urged Lebanese authorities to better protect Jabal Mohsen “where the minority Alawites are increasingly coming under attack by Sunni gunmen.”
Saade, the security chief, said no cell phones or face masks had been found in the Baalbek or Roumieh prisons.
While he confirmed that the video filmed inside the Tripoli jail was indeed real, Saade said the inmates turned out to be from the same sect.
“Investigations are still ongoing,” Saade said, while assuring that inmates at the three prisons were calm. He also denied any form of sectarian incitement.