Who will be held accountable for Itani scandal?
The actor Ziad Itani has not been released from prison even though Interior Minister Nihad Al-Mashnouk said he was innocent of the charge of collaborating with Israel, and despite the arrest of the former head of Lebanon’s cybercrime unit, Suzan Hajj Hobeiche, on charges of fabricating the file against Itani after blaming him for her dismissal.
So, after months of flooding Lebanese public opinion with stories about espionage for Israel and tales of a beautiful Israeli officer who wanted to implicate a number of Lebanese journalists and intellectuals, Itani was proven to be innocent. There was no Israeli spy girlfriend. There was no “promotion of Zionist thought among intellectuals.”
How was it possible for anyone not to doubt the investigation upon hearing such ridiculous charges? And how could anyone who believed them not apologize? There is no doubt that Israel has an interest in spying on a country like Lebanon, but it is certain that such espionage would not be for these objectives and not by these means. It seems the charge of collaboration with Israel has a special charm and presence that disrupts common sense and logic — it is enough merely to announce the charge of collaboration with Israel for us to be blinded and believe the case.
There is nothing that incriminates Itani, but there is much that incriminates the fabricator of that plot.
We must hope that falsely accused Lebanese actor will be able to resume a normal life, but this will not relieve us from the nightmare of our slowly and painfully dying country.
Here in Lebanon, sectarian calculations outweigh any other consideration. Thus, the Itani case was turned into a settling of accounts between the security services. The (Christian) state security apparatus arrested Itani and accused him of espionage, before entering the (Muslim) Information Branch to prove that Itani’s file was fabricated by Hobeiche. Today, there are those who defend Hobeiche on the basis that her arrest is an insult to her religion (Christianity).
Itani’s lawyer has said in an interview that the actor was beaten and humiliated during his arrest and was not allowed access to a doctor.
This case summarizes the political and security failures from which Lebanon is suffering. And, awaiting his release, it seems that a political earthquake is expected to happen. Are we going to see, in the next few days, resignations and accountability processes, or has the Lebanese situation become completely immune to such things?
Our country is suffering from multi-level destruction, not least of which is the destruction of the system of values and social and professional solidarity in the face of a cowardly authority. The media, which rushed to defame Itani on the day of his arrest, offers a precise representation of newspapers and television stations that are financially and politically dependent on certain sources. The assault on an easy and politically unprotected target such as Itani, and the creation of a long list of unbelievable accusations, are the core of the practices of the media, which include defaming innocent people and supporting tyrannical regimes.
What happened revealed the amount of lying in the Lebanese public sphere. Itani survived the charge of collaboration with Israel after some Lebanese journalists and politicians undermined him and insulted his dignity. He has not been released yet, but we hope that, when he comes out, he will resume a normal life. However, this will not relieve us from the nightmare of our slowly and painfully dying country.
— Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer.
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