Thursday, April 2, 2020

In Lebanon, new rallies against the political class

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Anti-government protesters near the Parliament in Beirut, Lebanon, January 16. Bilal Hussein / AP

The vast majority of protesters arrested in the past 48 hours were released on Thursday (January 16th) in Lebanon, a country shaken by an unprecedented protest movement against politicians accused of corruption and incompetence, lawyers said.

"All those arrested have been released except for seven foreigners who will be brought" before the competent authorities, said the Committee of lawyers for the defense of protesters on its Facebook page. He had reported the detention of 101 people, including minors. The foreigners still detained are six Syrians and one Egyptian, according to a member of the committee. "Under popular pressure, all detainees were released two days after a hysterical crackdown", lawyer and activist Nizar Saghiyé wrote on Twitter.

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Vandalism

Protesters block a road in Beirut, Lebanon, January 16.
Protesters block a road in Beirut, Lebanon, January 16. Bilal Hussein / AP

In the evening, a few hundred people took to the streets again, gathering in front of the Parliament building in and around central Beirut. Lebanese also demonstrated outside the headquarters of the Central Bank of Lebanon and the Interior Ministry in the Lebanese capital.

Protesters booed the resigning interior minister, Raya al-Hassan, and denounced the delay in forming a government of technocrats, demanded by the street, after the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri in late October, the socio-economic situation continues to deteriorate.

In the Hamra neighborhood, protesters vandalized three banks late in the evening, according to an Agence France-Presse photographer, breaking shop windows and tearing up ATMs. The national news agency reported a molotov cocktail launched against one of the banks. The Lebanese capital was also the scene of nightly violence on Tuesday and Wednesday, including against several banks, and 59 people suspected of vandalism and assault were arrested, police said.

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Draconian restrictions on withdrawals

Army soldiers outside bank branches during a demonstration in the Lebanese capital on January 16.
Army soldiers outside bank branches during a demonstration in the Lebanese capital on January 16. ANWAR AMRO / AFP

The Lebanese have been furious since the entry into force in recent weeks of draconian withdrawal restrictions imposed by banks accused by protesters of complicity in power.

“The security forces brutally beat demonstrators (…) verbally and physically ill-treating themwrote Amnesty International. The actions of a handful of protesters who vandalized banks or threw stones never justify such excessive use of force. "

The Lebanese Red Cross said on Wednesday evening that it had treated 84 wounded in both camps after clashes between police and demonstrators. Journalists were also injured by the police.

On Thursday, a meeting was held between Hariri, the governor of the Central Bank and the outgoing finance minister to discuss the economic crisis and the upcoming debt maturities. In addition, a new ministerial team could see the light on Friday, according to local media.

Read also Lebanon's political elite remain deaf to street anger

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