BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Prosecutor requests lifting MP Merhebi’s immunity

Future Movement MPs in north Lebanon visited Merhebi in solidarity.

BEIRUT/TRIPOLI: State Prosecutor Hatem Madi asked the Justice Ministry Tuesday to strip MP Mouin Merhebi of his parliamentary immunity, two days after a standoff with police in north Lebanon.

Madi filed a request to caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi, who will study the case and refer it to Speaker Nabih Berri.

Stripping a lawmaker of his immunity requires the approval of two-thirds of Parliament.

This is Madi’s second request to strip the lawmaker of his immunity after the Defense Ministry filed a complaint last year against Merhebi over slander and defamation against the Army and its command.

Parliament, however, did not convene to discuss the case.

The prosecutor’s request comes two days after the Future Movement MP fired shots in a standoff with police near the northern city of Tripoli.

In a statement Sunday, the Internal Security Forces said Merhebi contested a checkpoint police had setup earlier, arguing it was causing a traffic jam.

The checkpoint was part of the security agency’s crackdown on illegal buildings in the area.

The ISF said Merhebi ignored the police’s explanation regarding the nature of the checkpoint and grabbed a Kalashnikov out of his car and began firing shots into the air after unleashing insults.

Then, Merhebi approached a military vehicle at the checkpoint in an attempt to remove it, but the driver refused and a scuffle ensued, the police said.

If Parliament agrees to remove Merhebi’s immunity, the Future Movement lawmaker would be the fourth MP to be tried in the country’s post-independence history.

MP Refaat Qazoun lost his immunity in 1952, followed by MP Yehya Shams in 1994 and MP Habib Hakim in 1999.

Speaking to a local news website, Merhebi said he would not comment on Madi’s action, describing it as petty and not worthy of a response.

He also voiced his readiness to use his weapon again “to meet the needs of the citizens,” adding that he would not run in the upcoming elections.

Separately, Future Movement MPs Mohammad Kabbara, Khaled Daher, Nidal Tohme and former MP Mustafa Alloush visited Merhebi at his Tripoli residence to express solidarity.

“We are here to visit our friend and brother MP Mouin Merhebi to affirm our solidarity with him after the event that took place, which was portrayed in a manner contrary to the truth,” Kabbara told reporters.

He also said that the lawmaker was trying to ease traffic on the Akkar-Tripoli road and accused security forces of “acting in an inappropriate manner with Merhebi.”

Kabbara also questioned the police’s motive, saying it could have been to tarnish Merhebi’s image.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 24, 2013, on page 3.

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