BEIRUT: Families of Islamist inmates demonstrated outside the Grand Serail Monday to pressure Lebanese authorities to endorse a law to reduce the prison year to nine months.
A crowd of about 100 relatives of inmates from jails across Lebanon, particularly the notorious Roumieh prison northeast of Beirut, took part in the protest outside the Grand Serail in Downtown Beirut shortly before midday.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati met with the protesters to hear their demands.
At noon, the protesters were allowed into the Grand Serail’s courtyard to allow President Michel Sleiman’s motorcade to pass to Beirut port. The move led some local news outlets to suggest that inmates’ families had stormed the Grand Serail.
Security was tight along the streets from the Presidential Palace in suburban Baabda all the way to Beirut Port Monday as Sleiman was scheduled to attend a ceremony welcoming a Brazilian frigate which will lead the fleet of naval forces of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon.
The frigate docked at midday. Visiting Brazilian Vice President Michel Temer met Sleiman at the Beirut port.
The demonstration at the Grand Serail, which was held in coordination with prisoners, was aimed to put more pressure on Parliament to endorse a draft law to reduce the prison year from 12 to nine months. Some called for general amnesty.
Authorities have been facing mounting pressure from inmates who in recent weeks have escalated their protests to include hunger strikes.
In April, a three-day riot by inmates at Roumieh fueled by harsh living conditions left at least four people dead and almost 10 others wounded as prisoners demanded general amnesty.
In August lawmakers, who had turned down the original draft law to reduce the prison year, passed the bill for revision to the Administration and Justice Committee.
But the head of the committee Robert Ghanem suggested each prisoner case be considered separately and individually.