BEIRUT: The right of lawmakers to express their opinions freely should remain intact, Prime Minister Naijb Mikati said Monday.
“The freedom of expression given to the nation’s lawmakers should not be harmed or targeted,” said Mikati, according to a statement from his press office.
The prime minister’s comments come a day after Lebanon’s general prosecutor requested that MP Butros Harb’s parliamentary immunity be lifted over recent statements he made following the judiciary’s decision to charge a member of Hezbollah with an attempt on the lawmaker’s life.
In a memo presented to Lebanon’s justice minister Shakib Qortbawi, Judge Hatem Madi requested that Harb’s immunity be lifted for insulting the judiciary as well as the president.
In his statement, Mikati called for distancing the judiciary from political disputes in the country and stressed that the judiciary is fulfilling its duties impartially.
“We reiterate the call to keep Lebanon’s judiciary away from political disputes and we stress that the judiciary is fulfilling its tasks honestly away from any influences whatsoever,” said Mikati.
The prime minister also said that “constructive criticism” also serves to enhance the executive power, and thus parliamentarians’ right to express their opinions should be secured.
Commenting on Madi’s decision, Harb described it as comical and said the judge interpreted as insulting his remarks about pressures exerted on President Michel Sleiman and the judiciary to refrain from charging Mahmoud Hayek, a member of Hezbollah, with the June 2012 attempt on the politician’s life.
Although he praised the judiciary’s action after he charged Hayek last week, Harb said that Hezbollah had put pressure on both political and judicial officials to prevent the handover of Hayek, who remains at large.
He also alleged Hezbollah had tried to cut a deal with the judiciary, wherein Hayek would give his testimony and then walk away.
Hayek was charged on Feb. 1 with carrying out acts of terror after planting a bomb in the elevator of the building that houses Harb’s office in Badaro, Beirut, in June 2012.