Lebanon News

Rifi denounces ISF's arrest of his bodyguard, lashes out at Hezbollah

File- Ashraf Rifi speaks in his office in Beirut in this May 8, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT: Former Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi Sunday denounced police allegations of misconduct against his bodyguard, saying the arrest was based on political pressure.

“The presumed confessions... on behavioral misconduct... are falsified facts,” Rifi said on Twitter Sunday afternoon, hours after the Internal Security Forces issued a statement on the matter.

Rifi tweeted that his bodyguard had never travelled with him abroad.

“I will ask General Security to request the announcement of mine and my bodyguard’s time and date of travel,” Rifi said.

The minister added that his bodyguard had requested to be discharged from military service three months ago, but it was not approved.

“I referred to General [Ibrahim] Basbous, and felt there was procrastination in the matter,” Rifi said.

The bodyguard, who is a warrant officer, had applied for a new passport although his old passport was still valid, thereby prompting an investigation, an ISF statement said earlier Sunday.

The bodyguard had reportedly confessed to leaving Lebanon with Rifi without obtaining an official permit, which is a violation to the ISF code of conduct.

“The Internal Security Forces would like to clarify for public opinion [that the arrest] is relevant to the conduct and behavior of ISF personnel,” the statement said.

During the interrogation, the bodyguard also said that he was politically active, another violation of ISF rules.

He said that he was aware that his behavior had been a breach of the code of conduct, but that he had acted upon the orders and directives of Rifi, the ISF statement added.

The arrest was an effort to “enhance discipline without any kind of political retaliation,” the statement said, adding that this is one of “the tens of behavior investigations that are done on a daily basis."

ISF imposes penalties against violators and rewards pioneering and distinct behavior, the statement concluded.

In a seperate tweet, Rifi said he was responding to whomever had issued the ISF statement, seemingly avoiding confrontation with ISF Director General General Ibrahim Basbous.

Simultaneously, Rifi criticized Hezbollah for standing behind the false accusations.

“Why are the practices of the bodyguards of those behind the false accusations ignored,” Rifi asked.

Several security officers have not been questioned over their participation in political meetings with Hezbollah without the permission or the knowledge of their superiors, Rifi said.

On Friday, the former minister criticized the arrest of his bodyguard, describing his detention as “malicious."

Rifi resigned from former Prime Minister Tammam Salam's Cabinet in Feb. 2016 over what he said was Hezbollah’s “domination” of government institutions.

He is also the country’s ex-ISF chief.





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