Lebanon not to charge Ghosn over Israel trip

Lebanon not to charge Ghosn over Israel trip
Lebanon's prosecutor on November 3, 2020 decided not to prosecute fugitive former auto tycoon Carlos Ghosn over visiting arch-foe Israel in 2008 due to a statute of limitations, a judicial source said. (AFP/File)
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Updated 04 November 2020

Lebanon not to charge Ghosn over Israel trip

Lebanon not to charge Ghosn over Israel trip
  • Three lawyers filed a motion in January calling for the 66-year-old businessman to be prosecuted over his trip to the Jewish state as Renault-Nissan chairman

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s prosecutor general decided Tuesday not to charge fugitive ex-auto tycoon Carlos Ghosn for visiting Israel in 2008 because the statute of limitations has expired, a judicial source said.

Three lawyers filed a motion in January calling for the 66-year-old businessman to be prosecuted over his trip to the Jewish state as Renault-Nissan chairman.

Lebanon is technically still at war with Israel and forbids its citizens from traveling there.

“Prosecutor general Ghassan Oueidat decided ... not to prosecute Ghosn for the crimes attributed to him of entering the enemy country and dealing with it economically,” the source told AFP.

“A statute of limitations of ten years had passed since the alleged crime,” the source added.

Ghosn on Jan. 8 apologized to the Lebanese people for having visited Israel to sign a deal to produce electric vehicles, saying he traveled on business for Renault on a French passport.

He also holds Lebanese and Brazilian nationalities.

The ex-Nissan chief was arrested in Japan in November 2018 on financial misconduct charges and spent 130 days in detention, before he jumped bail and smuggled himself out of the country late last year.

Ghosn appeared at a press conference in Lebanon on Jan. 8, denying all charges and claiming he was a victim of a plot by Nissan and Japanese officials.

Japan has called on Ghosn to return to the Asian country to be tried, while Lebanon has asked Japan to hand over his file on financial misconduct charges.

He and his wife Carole are to take part in a documentary and mini-series about his life, the first of which started shooting in Beirut in September.

Separately, the US Justice Department on Friday urged a federal judge to swiftly reject a last-minute bid by two Massachusetts men to avoid being extradited to Japan to face charges that they helped Ghosn flee the country.

The lawyers for the two men have said they will ask the State Department and White House to reconsider their extradition.


Lebanon Christian leader summoned over deadly violence

Lebanon Christian leader summoned over deadly violence
Updated 57 min 24 sec ago

Lebanon Christian leader summoned over deadly violence

Lebanon Christian leader summoned over deadly violence
  • Hezbollah and Amal accused Lebanese Forces, which supports the probe, of being responsible for sniper fire against the protesters that ignited street clashes
  • A representative of the military court had "instructed the army intelligence to summon Geagea and take his statement based on information provided by arrested LF members"

BEIRUT: The head of the Lebanese Forces Christian group, Samir Geagea, has been summoned for questioning over deadly violence that erupted at a Shiite rally last week, a judicial official said Thursday.
Seven people were killed in Beirut on October 14 during a protest organized by the Shiite movements Amal and Hezbollah to demand Tarek Bitar, the judge investigating Beirut’s powerful port blast, be removed.
Hezbollah and Amal accused the Lebanese Forces (LF), which supports the probe, of being responsible for sniper fire against the protesters that ignited street clashes.
The Christian group denies the charges.
Fadi Akiki, a representative of the military court, had “instructed the army intelligence to summon Geagea and take his statement based on information provided by arrested LF members,” the judicial official said.
Twenty-six people were arrested after the violence in the heart of the Lebanese capital, most of them LF members, the official said on Thursday.
The exact circumstances of the violence remain unclear.
Geagea has denied responsiblity for the deaths, saying that residents of Beirut’s Christian neighborhood of Ain Al-Remmaneh had “defended” themselves against “Hezbollah militiamen who tried to enter their homes.”
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said on Monday that his Iran-backed movement had 100,000 armed fighters at its disposal, and warned it is against sparking any “civil war.”
On Thursday, Geagea told the Lebanon’s MTV channel he was not aware of the summons.
“I am ready to appear before the judge, on one condition: that Hassan Nasrallah does it before me,” he said.
Nasrallah has been in hiding since the war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.
Tensions flared after Bitar summoned two Amal former ministers for questioning as part of the investigation into last year’s devastating Beirut port blast.
The explosion of a huge stockpile of poorly stored fertilizer on the dockside on August 4, 2020 killed more than 210 people, wounded thousands and ravaged half the capital.


Woman dies in crash, run over repeatedly on pitch-black Lebanese highway

Woman dies in crash, run over repeatedly on pitch-black Lebanese highway
Updated 21 October 2021

Woman dies in crash, run over repeatedly on pitch-black Lebanese highway

Woman dies in crash, run over repeatedly on pitch-black Lebanese highway
  • Banque du Liban holds meeting with IMF executive director 
  • Hezbollah and Amal Movement boycotting Cabinet sessions 

BEIRUT: Lebanon on Thursday woke to news of one of the bleakest moments brought on by the country’s energy crisis, after the smashed-up body of a female Ethiopian worker was found on Al-Zahrani Highway, which links Beirut to the south.

According to a security source, she was killed in a crash during the night but was run over again and again as drivers could not see her body in the dark.

People took to the streets for the second day in a row to protest their ever-worsening conditions, especially the uncontrolled rise in fuel prices and its repercussions on everyday life.

On Thursday, Banque du Liban said a meeting was held with the executive director at the International Monetary Fund during which the government's priorities were discussed, especially with regard to a “comprehensive economic project.”

The IMF’s Mahmoud Mohieldin described his visit to Lebanon and his meetings with officials as “successful, with a positive outcome, compared to previous visits.”

He said: “I saw a better consensus over priorities and a common discourse between the parties regarding the economic crisis and its social effects. The meetings reflect the four priorities that constitute the pillars of future dealings with the IMF, and a framework for the negotiations that the government will carry out with the BDL in the coming weeks. It is important to consider a timeframe.”

Mohieldin stressed the importance of unifying the exchange rate which was, he added, usually a product of comprehensive economic reforms that were being initiated.

“A law to control remittances from inside and outside the country needs to be adopted, along with structural reforms and emphasis on the issue of governance, transparency and sector-related priorities, determined by the state.

“If we succeed in developing a good framework to present to the IMF in the coming weeks, it can then be presented to the IMF’s board of directors, and the form of the program and the financing framework associated with it will thus be determined, in a way that will reinstate confidence in the Lebanese economy and restore financial flows,” he said.

But the Cabinet has yet to convene as the ministers of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement are refusing to attend a session until Judge Tarek Bitar, who is leading the investigation into last year’s Beirut Port blast, is dismissed and until the deadly street violence from earlier this month is investigated.

The government is also supposed to decide on the ration card for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable, coinciding with the lifting of fuel subsidies.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Thursday contacted several officials following statements from the Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada, who is affiliated with the Shiite parties Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, about Shiite ministers resigning from the government.

Mikati also met President Michel Aoun. 

According to a ministerial source, their meeting revolved around “finding a formula” that would lead to the resumption of government work “under the pressure of stressful living conditions.”

"All parties realize that the uncontrolled rise in prices will implode in the street, and the government bears the responsibility to implement rescue measures and secure the required international assistance,” the source added.

Mikati chaired a committee meeting to address the repercussions of the financial crisis on public utilities. 

The committee discussed existing obligations and an agreement to provide a financial, contractual and legal equation that allowed securing public utility services and the continuation or termination of business in a balanced and fair manner that took into account urgent factors.

The majority of contractors that signed with the Lebanese state have stopped their work, including waste removal companies, because the cost was calculated on the official exchange rate of LBP1,507 to the US dollar. But the Lebanese national currency trades at around LBP20,000 to the dollar on the black market.

During the meeting, it was decided that the first Cabinet session would announce measures that would respond to the living crisis, specifically raising the daily transport allowance, and approving a monthly advance as social assistance for workers in public institutions, government hospitals and schools, within an integrated project.


Tunisia president promises ‘dialogue’ over political system

Tunisia president promises ‘dialogue’ over political system
Updated 21 min 24 sec ago

Tunisia president promises ‘dialogue’ over political system

Tunisia president promises ‘dialogue’ over political system
  • Saied said the dialogue would include the country's young people
  • He criticised what he called foreign interference

TUNIS: Tunisia's president said on Tuesday he would launch a "national dialogue" on changing electoral law and the political system, but gave no detail on how he would allay international concerns about his seizure of near total power.
President Kais Saied assumed executive authority in July then last month brushed aside most of the constitution. Critics called the moves a coup and the European Union this week joined other donors in calling for a restoration of democratic order.
In a speech streamed on the presidential Facebook page, Saied said the dialogue would include the country's young people, but kept up a defiant tone.
He said the discussions would not include "those who stole the people's money and traitors". He also criticised what he called foreign interference, telling world powers to "return smuggled Tunisian money to European and international banks".
Critics say his moves have cast doubt over the democratic gains of Tunisia's 2011 revolution. But his supporters have hailed the changes, saying they have reclaimed the revolution from an entrenched, corrupt elite.
Saied announced a new government this month but gave no indication he was ready to relinquish control. Under rules announced in September, the new cabinet ultimately answers to him rather than the new prime minister, Najla Bouden.


Israelis in West Bank flashpoint dig for new neighborhood

Israelis in West Bank flashpoint dig for new neighborhood
Updated 21 October 2021

Israelis in West Bank flashpoint dig for new neighborhood

Israelis in West Bank flashpoint dig for new neighborhood
  • "We are clearing the area for the beginning of the new project," said Yishai Fleisher, spokesman for Hebron's Jewish community
  • The Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now is suing to stop the project

JERUSALEM: Jewish residents of an explosive settlement in the West Bank city of Hebron said Thursday they had begun work in the construction of a new neighborhood.
“We are clearing the area for the beginning of the new project,” said Yishai Fleisher, spokesman for Hebron’s Jewish community.
Israel approved the construction four years ago on an Israeli military base and allocated more than $6 million to it.
The Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now is suing to stop the project, which it says is the first major expansion of the Jewish community in Hebron in two decades.
The neighborhood would eventually contain 31 homes, Fleisher said.
About 1,000 Jewish settlers live in Hebron under heavy Israeli military protection among more than 200,000 Palestinians.
Israel occupied the West Bank, including Hebron, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in 1967. Palestinians eye the areas for their future state.
Hebron contains a holy site known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi mosque and to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs, which is revered by both faiths.
Palestinian Hebron resident Issa Amro, an activist against settlements, said the new neighborhood would exacerbate friction in the area.
“It means an increase in violence. It means the restrictions on us as Palestinians. It means changing the identity of our own city to an Israeli, Hebrew city,” he said.
The construction was revealed by Peace Now, which published video showing a digger at work.
The Israeli military body responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank, COGAT, approved the new settler units in central Hebron in 2017.
Peace Now and the Hebron municipality challenged the apartment project in Jerusalem’s district court and lost, said Hagit Ofran of Peace Now.
The area had previously served as a bus station before the Israeli army closed it for security reasons, Ofran said.
“Now Israel decided there was no military purpose anymore, there is no security need, so it should return to the (Palestinians),” Ofran said. “But instead of returning it, they are taking it and giving it to settlers.”
Fleisher said no court issued an injunction against construction.
Ofran said her group and Hebron are now appealing to Israel’s supreme court.


P5 countries call for protection of civilians amid Houthi offensive on Marib

P5 countries call for protection of civilians amid Houthi offensive on Marib
Updated 21 October 2021

P5 countries call for protection of civilians amid Houthi offensive on Marib

P5 countries call for protection of civilians amid Houthi offensive on Marib
  • P5: All Yemeni parties should promote dialogue and that “there is no military solution to the crisis”
  • The call took place a day after the UN Security Council condemned Houthi cross-border attacks against targets in Saudi Arabia

LONDON: The UN Security Council’s five permanent members called for the unconditional protection of civilians in Marib on Thursday.
During a call with Marib’s governor, the heads of missions of the UK, US, France, Russia and China to Yemen said that “a fully inclusive political solution in Yemen is the only way to end to the suffering of the Yemeni people.”
They added that all Yemeni parties should promote dialogue and that “there is no military solution to the crisis.”
The governor of Marib, Sultan Al-Arada, briefed the ambassadors on the dire humanitarian situation in the governorate.
The call took place a day after the UN Security Council condemned Houthi cross-border attacks against targets in Saudi Arabia, car-bomb attacks targeting a Yemeni official convoy, and attacks on civilian and commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.
Thousands of combatants and civilians have been killed in Marib province since early this year when the Houthis resumed a major military offensive to control Marib city.
The Arab coalition has recently been carrying out operations in Marib’s besieged Abedia district which has been under a Houthi siege since Sept. 23.
The militia has been hindering the movement of civilians and impeding humanitarian aid flows.