BEIRUT: Lebanon was shocked on Friday by the arrest of the writer and actor Ziad Itani for what a security source called “collaborating with Israel over the past three years.”
Itani, a comedian and playwright, was arrested on Thursday evening while returning home in the Ain Al-Rammaneh district in Beirut. Security sources said that he plotted to assassinate Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk and monitored Abdul Rahim Mrad, a former minister.
A security forces statement said: “On 23/11/2017, the State Security Directorate General carried out a quality proactive operation in counterintelligence, and it arrested the Lebanese citizen called Ziad Ahmed Itani, who is an actor, director and playwright (born in Beirut 1975), on charges of collaborating and communicating with Israeli enemy. A specialized unit for the State Security, following monitoring, tracking and investigating for several months inside and outside Lebanese territories, and on direct instructions from the General Director, Maj. Gen. Tony Saliba, confirmed the crime against the suspect Ziad Itani.”
The statement said the suspect admitted to the tasks he was assigned in Lebanon, including “monitoring a group of prominent political figures, and strengthening relations with their close associates, in order to get as much details as possible about their lives, occupations, and especially their movements, and providing his operators with detailed information about two prominent political figures, whose identities will be revealed in our following statements. (The tasks also included) establishing a Lebanese nucleus to support the concept of normalization with Israel, promote Zionist ideas among the intellectuals, and provide his operators with reports about the reaction of the Lebanese society in all its aspects after the political developments which occurred during the past two weeks in Lebanon.”
The security sources added that Itani, according to his confessions, was in touch with a woman who was supposed to come to Lebanon on Dec. 2, and he booked a hotel for her in the Mount Lebanon area.
State Security seized communication equipment from Itani’s home, including a laptop and three cellphones he was using for communication, according to security sources.
Itani became famous in the past few years after he presented the comedy “Beirut Al-Jadideh Road,” which talked about changing traditions in Beirut, and “Beirut on the Tree,” which he presented for many years. He took part in many TV satirical programs.
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