BEIRUT: Free Patriotic Movement MP Ziad Aswad filed a lawsuit Wednesday against You Stink campaign co-founder Assaad Thebian for "defamation and contempt of religion."
Aswad cited insulting remarks directed against Christianity posted on Thebian’s official Facebook page.
Aswad accused Thebian of using language that provokes sectarian strife and threatens civil peace within Lebanon.
Several NGOs came to the defense of Thebian earlier this week after FPM supporters launched a scathing attack on him over sarcastic anti-religious comments made years earlier.
“We stress the necessity of not criminalizing those who criticize or make sarcastic comments about religion, or those who explicitly state their lack of belief in God, because this is included under freedom of thought,” The non-governmental organizations Samir Kassir Eyes Foundation, March and Maharat said in a joint statement.
“Those comments written two years ago would not have gone viral if it weren’t for Thebian’s prominence in the movement,” the statement argued, emphasizing that “the statements do not include incitement.”
The controversy began when Tayyar.org, a news website operated by the FPM, published a story titled: “The mask has fallen! In pictures: Assad Thebian offends Christianity,” showing a screenshot of a Facebook status that the activist had written in April 2014.
The story prompted a large number of FPM supporters to use social media to dismiss Thebian and the movement he represents, while others lent their full support to Thebian and criticized the use of personal attacks to discredit the You Stink movement.
You Stink is the leading group in what has become a mass protest movement against the corrupt political class and protracted trash crisis in Lebanon.