Lebanon News

Cell-jamming devices remain idle in Roumieh Prison

File - Prisoners look out from a window at the Roumieh prison, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Mobile phone jamming devices installed last year in Roumieh’s notorious prison have so far been sitting idle, enabling Islamist detainees to freely communicate with the outside world and reportedly plot attacks with jihadists, a source at the Telecommunications Ministry confirmed to The Daily Star Wednesday.

The existence of such devices, aimed at disrupting cellular phone and Internet use by prisoners, was reported by As-Safir Wednesday. The source said the devices were installed in mid-2013, but have not been used since.

A security source said the devices, which can also block 3G mobile networks, haven’t been used for technical reasons.

During a testing period following installation, residents living in the nearby vicinity of Lebanon’s largest prison complained that the devices interferedwith their service.

The residents reported the issue to prison authorities who deactivated the devices.

“Experts are trying to find a way to limit the coverage of these devices to the surrounding parameters of the prison,” the source told The Daily Star on condition of anonymity.

The As-Safir report claimed Islamist inmates in Block B were using 3G networks on their phones to coordinate terrorist activities and recruit fighters for the Nusra Front, a radical rebel group operating in Syria with an offshoot in Lebanon.

Authorities are unable to wiretap emails and other content published online in jihadist-related forums, where the detainees coordinate with their accomplices outside the prison, said security officials quoted by the paper.

Hundreds of Islamist prisoners have been detained without trial since 2007. The men were apprehended for allegedly engaging in clashes with the Army in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in north Lebanon and belonging to Al-Qaeda-linked Fatah al-Islam.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 30, 2014, on page 3.




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