Lebanon: Dozens Detained After Protesters Hit Banks

  • As of Thursday morning, security forces were still holding about a hundred detainees.
  • Protesters on Hamra Street broke down the facades of a number of banks and sabotaged ATM machines.
  • Protesters demonstrated in front of Beirut police headquarters Wednesday night, calling for the release of the detainees from the previous night.

Dozens of Lebanese demonstrators were released by security forces after two nights of angry movements in Beirut. A number of them targeted banks, and were arrested, according to attorneys accompanying them to their files. The Lawyers Committee to defend the demonstrators, through its Facebook account, announced that “all detainees were released during the demonstrations in Hamra and Mazraa on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the exception of seven foreigners who will be referred to General Security.”

The 2019 Lebanese protests, nicknamed the Tax Intifada, are a series of country-wide, non-sectarian protests in response to the government’s failure to find solutions to an economic crisis that has been looming for the past year. It is suspected that the direct trigger to the protests were due to the planned taxes on gasoline, tobacco and online phone calls such as through WhatsApp, as country-wide protests broke out right after Cabinet talks of the taxes, due to be ratified by 22 October.

A member of the committee explained to news sources that the foreigners are six Syrians and an Egyptian, and their residence papers are expired. As of Thursday morning, security forces were still holding about a hundred detainees, 56 of whom were arrested on Wednesday night, in addition to 45 others who were arrested Tuesday.

On Tuesday night, Beirut witnessed confrontations between the demonstrators and the security forces, which caused injuries on both sides. Protesters on Hamra Street broke down the facades of a number of banks and sabotaged ATM machines, to express their anger at the severe banking restrictions. As a result, the security forces announced the arrest of “59 suspects of riots and attacks.”

The clashes renewed on Wednesday night, after protesters demonstrated in front of Beirut police headquarters, calling for the release of the detainees from the previous night. The security forces used force to disperse the demonstrators, who threw stones at them. A number of them were arrested, according to what activists and lawyers confirmed to AFP without issuing any official statement on their number. The Lebanese Red Cross counted 47 wounded, 37 of whom were taken to hospitals for treatment. A number of photographers and journalists were there, some of whom were not spared the beating, while they were broadcasting on local channels.

“What we have seen in the past two days is a blatant attack on freedom of assembly and expression,” said Lynn Maalouf, director of Middle East research at Amnesty International, noting that security forces “violently acted against the demonstrators, dragged them from the street towards the police station and verbally and physically assaulted them.” She added that the “actions of a minority of the demonstrators who destroyed banks and threw stones are never considered a justification for the use of excessive force in this way.”

Michel Aoun is a Lebanese politician who is the current President of Lebanon. He was elected president on 31 October 2016 on the 46th electoral session of the Lebanese parliament, breaking a 29-month deadlock. He is a Maronite Christian and the founder of the Free Patriotic Movement.

Since October 17, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have taken to the streets and squares, blocking roads to protest the performance of the political class, which demonstrators accuse of corruption. Protesters hold them responsible for the deteriorating economic situation and its inability to rehabilitate facilities and improve basic public services.

The protests caused the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and then the assignment of Hassan Diab to form a temporary, caretaker government. Diab is putting the final touches on a government of technocrats and experts that he intends to present soon to the President of the republic, Michel Aoun. Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, after meeting Diab and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri on Thursday, said, “I think that we have made huge progress today, based on which we can say that we are on the threshold of forming a new government.”

The demonstrators are calling for the formation of a government as soon as possible, which will set a rescue plan for the ailing economy. Tens of thousands of Lebanese have lost their jobs or part of their salaries due to the worst economic crisis in the country in its modern history. Banks witness almost daily problems between customers who want to get their money and bank employees who are unable to fulfill their desires. Also, it is no longer possible to transfer money abroad except in specific cases.

Only $1/click

Submit Your Ad Here

Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

Leave a Reply