BEIRUT: The Military Tribunal Monday ordered the release of six protesters who were accused of vandalism and assaulting policemen during an anti-government demonstration last week, but will keep five others in custody, lawyers said.
Among those who are to remain in custody are former hunger striker Waref Sleiman, Pierre Hashash, Zein Ibrahim, Rami Mahfouz, and Fayez Yassine.
Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghayda questioned 11 protesters in presence of their defense lawyers, who revealed that they will file a request to free those who remain in prison.
“They didn't do anything... The arrests are arbitrary and political as the judiciary didn’t mention what the suspects exactly vandalized and assaulted,” a lawyer told reporters after the questioning of the 11 protesters ended.
Those who were set to be released were identified as as Mohammad Turk, Mahmoud Bou Moussa, Maneh Halawi, Khaldoun Jaber, and Khodr Bou Hamzeh. A sixth protester was released earlier in the day.
“They are detained because they were expressing their opinion,” the lawyer added, calling for their release.
He pointed out there are 19 other protesters with arrest warrants out for them over charges of vandalism, assaulting police officers and attacking public and private property.
“Some of them were released in return for a proof of residence, but we don’t know who the rest are... The judiciary should reveal the names in order for them to hand themselves in or else every person who took part in the protest would think it was him,” the lawyer said.
Judge Dani al-Zeini, Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr's aide, later approved Abu Ghayda's decision.
The six defendants who will be released will be transferred to police stations to wrap up their release papers.
A handful of activists and relatives of the protesters gathered outside the court to call for their immediate release.
Abu Ghayda’s decision came one day after activists threatened to escalate their protest action if the protesters’ release were further delayed.
Friends and families of the activists rallied Sunday near police stations in Beirut to demand the freedom for their loved ones.
Saqr Saturday charged 30 protesters with assaulting police, vandalizing public and private property and rioting.
Activists claimed that more than 60 protesters were arrested during Thursday's standoff between demonstrators and police, but State Prosecutor Samir Hammoud Friday put the number at 33.
At least 76 people were wounded among the ranks of protesters and police during the Oct. 8 rally.