Lebanon News

Gen. Aoun defends Army’s role regarding protests

Army commander Gen. Joseph Aoun speaks to soldiers, Nov. 17, 2019. (The Daily Star/Lebanese Army, HO)

BEIRUT: The commander of the Army said Sunday that blocking roads was unacceptable, but maintained that the Army is responsible for keeping protesters safe. Speaking during a tour that involved visits to various Army units, Gen. Joseph Aoun praised the soldiers and the work that they were doing, saying they showed a lot of awareness in their approach to the recent events. This, he added, prevented any attempts to take advantage of the situation.

“The Army works and acts based on what it sees suitable,” he said, according to a statement.

Aoun addressed the soldiers, telling them that they were committed to a level of discipline, professionalism and boldness. “You have proved that the military institution is the institution that brings all the country’s citizens together, no matter what their direction or point of view is.”

Aoun was speaking against the backdrop of nationwide protests against the ruling class that have been ongoing since Oct. 17. During this period, protesters and the Army have clashed in different areas, mainly over roads being blocked.

The Army commander said that the “freedom of movement is enshrined in international treaties.”

The Army was also at the heart of controversy last week after it made several arrests of protesters, with some detainees saying they had been beaten and mistreated while in custody.

Aoun addressed the recent arrests, saying that they included “those that rioted, confronted the Army and prevented it from carrying out its mission.”

He also addressed the death of Alaa Abou Fakher last week, saying that the case is with the judiciary.

Abou Fakher was killed while closing the road in Khaldeh, south of Beirut. The Army identified the shooter as Army Intelligence 1st Adjutant Charbel Ajeil, who was accompanying an Army Intelligence colonel. The lower ranking soldier was arrested and referred to the judiciary after the Army completed investigations into the incident.

“The situation is different than in different countries that are witnessing similar events in which there are a large number of victims, and this is what we are trying to avoid.”

Aoun also called on people to avoid rumors that aim at misdirecting public opinion and that cause a division between citizens and the military. “History will witness that the Army saved Lebanon,” he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 18, 2019, on page 2.

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