Lebanon makes largest ever cannabis drug bust

Workers cultivate plants at a cannabis plantation in the village of Yammouneh in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley on July 23, 2018.. The sun-soaked cannabis fields stretch to the horizon, just out of reach of a nearby army checkpoint. Its production is lucrative in Lebanon, but growers fear legalising its medical use could slash profits. (File/AFP)
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Updated 10 April 2020

Lebanon makes largest ever cannabis drug bust

  • The Mediterranean country on March 15 announced a lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19
  • Security forces regularly bust attempted drug exports at Beirut airport and have destroyed marijuana fields

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s security forces said Friday they had made their largest cannabis seizure in history last month, unearthing 25 tons of the drug intended for Africa.
The Mediterranean country on March 15 announced a lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19, which has now officially infected 609 and killed 20 nationwide.
On March 16, the Internal Security Forces stopped “eight trucks headed to the Beirut port carrying thousands of plastic bags of soil,” the security branch said.
After inspection, “huge quantities of hashish reaching around 25 tons were seized... that had been professionally hidden inside bags of soil,” it said in a statement.
“This quantity is the largest seized in the history of Lebanon,” it added, and had been intended for “an African country.”
The marijuana came in a variety of kinds including “Beirut mood,” “Spring flower,” or even “Kiki do you love me,” the ISF said.
Consuming, growing and selling marijuana is illegal in Lebanon, but in the marginalized east of the country its production blossomed during the 1975-1990 civil war.
Authorities have since struggled to clamp down on the trade and its production has turned into a multi-million-dollar business.
In 2016, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ranked Lebanon as the third main source of cannabis resin after Morocco and Afghanistan, which are both much larger.
Security forces regularly bust attempted drug exports at Beirut airport and have destroyed marijuana fields.
But growers have fought back, protesting over a lack of alternatives for their livelihoods. In 2012, they fired rockets at army bulldozers trying to raze their crop.
Since 2018, lawmakers have however been considering legalizing the drug for medical purposes to give a boost to Lebanon’s ailing economy.


Court testimony claims Turkish general killed after discovering Qatar extremist funding

Updated 04 August 2020

Court testimony claims Turkish general killed after discovering Qatar extremist funding

  • Explosive courtroom transcript says Brig. Gen. Semih Terzi was killed because he knew too much about Turkish general's murky dealings in Syria
  • Turkish officials accused of embezzling money sent from Qatar to arm Syrian militants

LONDON: A Turkish general killed during a failed coup was executed after he found out Qatar was funneling money to extremist groups in Syria through Turkey, according to explosive courtroom claims.

Brig. Gen. Semih Terzi was shot dead in July 2016 during an attempt by some military officers to overthrow the government of Recip Tayyip Erdogan. The alleged plotters were accused of being followers of the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.

According to a courtroom transcript obtained by the anti-Erdogan Nordic Monitor website, Terzi’s killing was ordered by Lt. Gen. Zekai Aksakalli, the then head of Turkey’s Special Forces Command.

The website claims the testimony came from Col. Firat Alakus, who worked in the intelligence section of the Special Forces Command, during a hearing at the 17th High Criminal Court in Ankara in March, 2019.

Alakus said Terzi had discovered that Aksakalli was working secretly with the Turkish intelligence agency (MIT) in running illegal operations in Syria for personal gain.

“[Terzi] knew how much of the funding delivered [to Turkey] by Qatar for the purpose of purchasing weapons and ammunition for the opposition was actually used for that and how much of it was actually used by public officials, how much was embezzled,” Alakus said. 

He added that Terzi’s knowledge of Aksakalli’s murky dealings was the real reason Aksakalli ordered his execution.

Terzi was killed after Aksakalli ordered him back to Ankara from a border province as the failed coup attempt unfolded, Alakus said.

Other accounts say Terzi was one of the main coup plotters and was killed leading an attempt to capture the special forces headquarters in the capital.

Along with the Qatari claim, Alakus said Terzi also knew the details of Turkey’s involvement in oil smuggling from Syria and how government officials aided extremist militant commanders.

He also objected to Turkish intelligence supplying weapons and training to extremist Syrian factions who were passed off as moderate opposition fighters.

“[Terzi’s murder] had to do with a trap devised by Zekai Aksakalli, who did not want such facts to come out into the open,” Alakus said.

Alakus was jailed for life in June 2019 after being convicted for taking part in the coup.