Lebanon News

Uprising day 30: Protests outside Safadi's home

A woman hugs Samer Mazeh after he was released from police custody in Beirut, Nov. 15, 2019. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Several dozen protesters Friday gathered outside the Beirut residence of former minister Mohammad Safadi to voice their rejection of reports that he would be named the country's next prime minister.

"Safadi is corrupt to the bone," one protester told local news channel Al Jadeed. Those gathered chanted "all of them means all of them, and Safadi is one of them."

The Future Movement, Free Patriotic Movement, Amal Movement and Hezbollah agreed on naming Safadi as the new premier on Thursday night.

A business tycoon and political mainstay, Safadi represented his native Tripoli in Parliament from 2000 till 2018. He was also a Cabinet minister continuously from 2005 until 2014, holding the Finance, Economy and Trade, and Public Works and Transportation portfolios.

The announcement of Safadi had enraged protesters on Thursday night, bringing them back to the streets after the Lebanese Army had opened most of the roads earlier in the day. A number of protesters were detained in Jal al-Dib and in Beirut.

Friends and family demanded their release on Friday, as a man who had allegedly been beaten by the Army showed severe bruising.

The Army took a more aggressive posture Thursday night, clashing with and arresting protesters.

Speaking from the hospital, Fadi Nader said he was beaten by soldiers Thursday night near Jal al-Dib.

“Army personnel beat me with sticks. I ran away and fell before around 20 soldiers beat me with their rifle butts and sticks,” Nader said.

Videos circulating online show Nader passed out on the side of the road, with bruises covering his chest. When speaking from the hospital Friday, Nader stood up and showed his back, covered in bruises, to the cameras.

In a statement issued Friday, the Army said that as they were opening blocked roads across the country, some protesters directed insults at soldiers and tried to attack them.

"This led to the arrest of 20 protesters, who were taken in for questioning," according to the statement. Nine of these protesters were later released, seven of them are still in custody as per court orders, and four have been transferred" to the Military Police for their involvement in previous misdemeanors."

The Army had taken several people into custody Thursday night. Names of detainees circulating on social and local media included Paul Abou Hamad, Raymond Takla, Joseph Saab, Ralph Khawand, Julian Rouhana, Joseph Rouhana, Mario Bou Ghosn and Anthony Mhanna as reportedly arrested in Jal al-Dib.

At Beirut's Ring Bridge, the Army reportedly arrested Samer Mazeh and Ali Basal.

Family and friends of Mazeh and Basal gathered outside the Beirut Justice Palace Friday morning, demanding their release.

“One person from a group of Army Intelligence, wearing civilian clothes, approached Samer and initiated a scuffle. ... Ali Basal, [Mazeh’s] friend, interfered. We tried to stop them [from arresting Basal and Mazeh] but we couldn’t,” one of Mazeh’s friends said from outside the Justice Palace.

Outside Kesrouan’s Sarba barracks, a number of protesters gathered Friday morning to ask about the fate of people arrested overnight.

Local TV channel MTV reported the Army asked the protesters to move and eventually forced them away from the barracks, denying the station the ability to film.

The Army has also been forcibly denying media outlets and people the ability to film as they open roads.

“I was filming what happened and they broke my phone,” one protester outside the barracks said.

Another said he was looking for his friend, Paul Abou Hamad, one of those believed to be arrested overnight in Jal al-Dib.

“People were treated so violently they should be taken to a hospital, not to the barracks,” another protester said.

The Army could not be immediately reached for comment.

On Thursday, protester Khaldoun Jaber was released from state custody. He alleged that the Army had beaten him after his arrest, lifting up his shirt to show cameras the marks on his back. The night before that, a member of Army Intelligence shot and killed another protester after a high-ranking officer got into a scuffle.

Protesters descended on Jal al-Dib and the Ring Bridge, among other locations Thursday night before soldiers arrived to reopen the roads.

On Friday, most roads were open. The highway south of Beirut at Khaldeh reopened around noon.

The highway north of the capital remained blocked at Bohssas, near Tripoli.

Many roads in Zahle and across the Bekaa Valley were blocked.

Nationwide protests broke out on Oct. 17, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets to vent their anger at what many see as a corrupt and feckless ruling class. Saad Hariri resigned as prime minister on Oct. 29, bringing down the government with him. Protesters have been demanding the formation of a technocratic government to deal with Lebanon’s dire economic situation, burdened by high public debt, high unemployment and zero economic growth.

People have also called for early parliamentary elections, abolition of the sectarian political system and an early end to President Michel Aoun’s 3-year-old term.

 

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