BEIRUT: More policemen were injured during demonstrations held last weekend in Downtown Beirut than protesters, according to Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, who blamed "infiltrators" for initiating the violence.
“Regardless of everything that has been said lately, after seven days of protests, we now have 146 injuries among Internal Security Forces [personnel] and 61 among protesters,” Machnouk said Friday at a news conference at his ministry.
“The numbers indicate that the harshness and violence was not from one side only,” he added. “It is unacceptable to depict policemen as the only offenders.”
Holding two printed pictures, one of a protester who lost his right eye and another showing a policeman who collapsed in tears, Machnouk said that both sides were victims of violence.
The policeman in the picture was helped up and taken to his colleagues by protesters, according to a video posted on social media. Al-Jadeed's reporter Youmna Fawwaz raised that fact during a Q&A session after the news conference.
The minister said he was “not ashamed” to say that security forces used “excessive force,” but only during Saturday's demonstration, not on subsequent days when protests also took place.
He said he had launched an investigation into the police’s actions, stressing that “everyone responsible for the use of excessive force Saturday will be held accountable.”
He said the investigation was being carried out both on the internal and judicial level.
The reason behind the violent police reaction, he explained, was the lack of communication between commanders and troops in the field.
But the minister underlined that other security agencies, including the Army and police responsible for protecting the Parliament, also acted inappropriately after “firing live rounds in the air.”
He also refused to be described as “the son of the Syrian security regime,” as he was accused of being by a number of protesters.
“I am not the son of any security regime ... I am one of the people who were persecuted harshly during their lives by the Syrian security regime,” he said.
“I don’t and never had a desire to be part of a security regime.”