BEIRUT: The family of legendary television producer Simon Asmar confirmed Monday that he was being investigated in connection with the brutal murder of a Syrian man, but maintained his innocence in the case.
Asmar, 70, is best known as the creator of Studio al-Fan, one of the first talent shows in the region which launched the careers of countless Lebanese pop stars, including Majida al-Roumi, Nawal Zoghby, Elissa, Wael Kfoury and Assi al-Hellani, among others.
He was initially arrested at some point last weekend in the Kesrouan town of Ghazir over outstanding debts. But during the course of the investigation, police discovered his link to Mohammad Ragheb Darwish, a Syrian man who reportedly worked in Asmar’s restaurant. Darwish was found shot and stabbed to death on the outskirts of Shahtoul, another town in Kesrouan, on July 5.
According to security sources, police are investigating witness testimonies alleging that the two men were engaged in a sexual relationship and that before Darwish was killed, he was blackmailing Asmar by threatening to publish intimate pictures on the Internet. Evidence gathered from Asmar’s phone indicated the two men were in contact before the murder, but Asmar has maintained that their relationship was purely business, the sources added.
Asmar was admitted to Al-Hayat Hospital early Monday morning while still under arrest, just one day after news of the investigation broke.
Asmar’s son, Bachir, dismissed media reports regarding his father’s relationship with Darwish. He called on the media, and particularly the television stations that worked with his father over the years, to “be careful about what they are saying.”
“They are messing with his image, knowing that he made their image,” Bachir Asmar told The Daily Star.
He admitted that his father was facing financial difficulties, but denied he had any role in Darwish’s murder, hinting at a possible connection between the lenders and what he characterized as rumors targeting his father.
“It’s a big movie, and [my father] is definitely not the director,” he said. “Hopefully [the police] will come out and say this soon.”
He did not provide details on his father’s health, saying only: “Things are bad and we’re trying to get him out [of the hospital].”
He said he couldn’t remember meeting Darwish, adding: “We have a lot of Syrians working in the restaurant.”