Lebanese actor accused of spying for Israel freed

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Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri receives Ziad Itani at his office on Tuesday. (AN photo)
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Ziad Itani, a Lebanese stage actor, who was indicted on charges of collaborating with Israel and drug possession, shouts as he speaks with journalists after he was released by Lebanese authorities, at his house, in Beirut. (AP)
Updated 14 March 2018
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Lebanese actor accused of spying for Israel freed

BEIRUT: Actor Ziad Itani has been released by the Lebanese military judiciary without bail after being confined for 110 days on a charge of spying for Israel.
His arrest shocked the Lebanese public, and there was further upset when an Internal Security Forces officer and a hacker were arrested for fabricating the case against Itani.
Itani was first held by Lebanese State Security and then by the Information Department of the ISF.
As soon as he was released from prison, a tearful Itani said: “The guys at the Information Department are heroes — thorough investigations were conducted with precision, and they saved the era from a big scandal.”
He also thanked President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk and said: “They knew that such a case won’t go unsolved.
“I am a stage actor who works for the people’s theater and was accused of the gravest crime. We don’t wish to go back to the outdated systems,” he added.
When asked if he had been tortured, he replied: “Yes.”
Less than two hours following the release order, Itani’s Twitter account was activated and, as he waited in prison for his attorney to finish the release proceedings, he tweeted: “What are you waiting for? Meet me in Tariq El Jdideh and bring sweets and juice with you. I’ve missed you.”
Itani’s lawyer Rami Itani, said after the prosecutor issued the release order: “A huge reception will await Ziad near his house in Tariq El Jdideh.”
Itani’s mother, who waited for him at her house in Tariq El Jdideh, said: “My son is innocent.
“I will never forgive those who were behind Ziad’s arrest, and I won’t forgive his acquaintances who believed the charge against him,” she added.
The Lebanese flag and Future Movement banners were raised on balconies In Tariq El Jdideh to welcome Itani.
Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghaida issued two arrest warrants against the security officer, Lt. Col. Suzan Hajj (Hobeiche), who was interrogated on Tuesday in the presence of her defense lawyer, former minister Rashid Derbas, and the hacker, Elie Ghabash, who was questioned on Monday.
During her three-hour investigation, conducted by Judge Abu Ghaida, Hajj was brought face-to-face with Ghabash, and both stuck to their statements.
According to judicial sources, Hajj insisted on denying the charge and Ghabash’s confessions.
For his part, Ghabash confirmed that Hajj had requested that he hack Ziad Itani’s online account in revenge.
While being interrogated by Judge Abu Ghaida, Ghabash had confirmed the confessions he made to the Information Department, where he said that “the case had been fabricated against Itani at the request of Hajj.”
Gabash had recorded all phone calls received from Hajj when she asked him to frame Itani for collaborating with a Mossad spy, Colette, who was later found to be fictitious.
Hajj wanted revenge on Itani for exposing a ‘like’ she had placed on a social media post by TV director Charbel Khalil, in which he mocked the Saudi decision to lift the driving ban on women.
Even though she quickly withdrew the ‘like’, she lost her job as head of the ISF anti-cybercrime unit as a result of the tweet.
Judge Abu Ghaida is to close the investigation and refer the case to the Military Tribunal for review it before he hands down his indictment, under which he refers the two detainees, Hajj and Ghabash, to the Military Court. The criminal charges they face carry a maximum sentence of 10 years.
 


Jordan braces for more anti-austerity protests

Updated 13 December 2018
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Jordan braces for more anti-austerity protests

AMMAN: Jordanian authorities deployed hundreds of riot police in the capital and warned activists to stay within the law on Thursday ahead of another protest against the government's tough austerity measures backed by the International Monetary Fund.
Large demonstrations in the summer managed to bring down the previous government over an unpopular IMF-backed tax bill.
Protesters have held sporadic protests over the past two weeks and a judicial source said authorities had detained several people for chanting slogans critical of King Abdullah as well as the government.
"(For) anyone who breaches the law there will be punishment," government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat told reporters on Thursday.
"There are those who want to sow destruction... We must safeguard Jordan's stability and security," she said, adding that the government wanted dialogue.
The latest protests eruped after a largely pliant parliament last month approved a tax bill widely seen as making few changes to the unpopular law scrapped after the summer demonstrations.
Many Jordanians say the government, which faces a record public debt of around $40 billion and desperately needs to raise revenue, is eroding the disposable incomes of poorer and middle class Jordanians while letting the wealthy off the hook.
The protesters complain that Prime Minister Omar Razzaz, appointed by King Abdullah after the summer protests, has not delivered on promises to jail corrupt officials and businessmen.
They also say he has sought public support for tough economic measures while failing to curb lavish public expenditure and improve public services, and that he should resign.
Jordan suffers from high unemployment, with regional conflicts weighing on business confidence. Poor economic growth has reduced tax revenues, forcing Jordan to borrow heavily abroad and also to resort to more domestic financing.